On Netflix – Review: “The Little Prince”(2016)

Posted by Michael Parsons on December 17, 2016 in , / 1 Comment

 

A beautiful expansion and somehow first ever feature adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book, “The Little Prince” is my favorite animated pic of 2016 (second would be “Kubo and the Two Strings”). The story of a little girl (Mackenzie Foy) whose “life plan” is broken down to each minute of the day by stiff, over-achieving mother (Rachel McAdams) wraps around, and eventually integrates into, the classic French tale. Screenplay writers Irena Brignull and Bob Persichetti create a smart and thoughtful correlative to the memoirs of The Aviator (Jeff Bridges).

Spawning from Exupéry’s own experience crash-landing his small plane in the desert, the core story (the book) is shown in gorgeous stop-motion animation that tells of a little boy from another planet the size of an asteroid. So small in fact, that he can see multiple sunsets just by scooting a few feet.  After leaving a vain, red-petaled metaphor behind, he the-little-prince-stills-1searches and searches for a new planet, carried by a flock of birds. (If you haven’t read the book, just stick with me please).

He ends up on Earth, where he meets a fox and a snake, each with their own existential adumbration, before meeting the pilot. He has a simple yet odd request: “Please draw me a sheep”.

Sharing this story is a now-elderly Aviator, neighbor to the little girl, who becomes entranced by his adventure-filled yarn and curious about the busted plane that sits in his backyard.

This newly crafted framework story is computer-animated in lively, funny, exquisitely designed contrast to the tale of The Little Prince. In it, the little girl laments her overly structured life, which leaves no time for friends, her summer break  consumed by studying. The Aviator seems like the fun grandfather she never had, an escape from academia.  His house is full of knickknacks ; “Hoarder, that’s what they call it. I’m a hoarder”.

And the story of The Little Prince, which eventually overlaps into the girl’s life when she comes to understand the meaning and timing of its telling, has her facing some pretty harsh truths. It’s to be noted that the source material was not written for children—ultimately, the message is rather bleak; likewise, the girl ends up venturing to a pretty dark place. But it’s also quite enlightening. Director Mark Osborne (“Kung Fu Panda”) has crafted something that is okay for young ones without compromising the essence of Exupéry’s work; it’s a delicate balance, achieved nearly to perfection, clever and inventive.

I loved this film because it’s genuine, beautiful, unusual and, I suppose, timeless;  it’s funny and sad and moving like 2014’s “Song of the Sea”. Bridges and Foy feel like they’re occupying the same space when voicing their roles. This isn’t just a great animated flick, it’s an incredible movie. The additional cast are too many to list: James Franco, Ricky Gervais, Albert Brooks and Paul Rudd, to name a few. Marion Cotillard voices the Rose that the prince left behind.

Available On Netflix

—M. Parsons

Available On Netflix/Directed by Mark Osborne/Starring Mackenzie Foy and Jeff Bridges/Animated/118 minutes/Rated PG

Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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