The Little Prince
Director: Mark Osborne
Screenwriter: Irena Brignull, Bob Persichetti
Cast: Mackenzie Foy, Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Riley Osborne, Paul Rudd, James Franco, Marion Cotillard, Benicio del Toro, Paul Giamatti, Bud Cort, Albert Brooks, Ricky Gervais, Jaquie Barnbrook, Marcel Bridges, and Jeffy Branion
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Rated G | 108 Minutes
Release Date: March 18, 2016 (U.S. limited release) | March 25, 2016 (U.S. wide release)
The Little Prince has been adapted. Again. But, for those who are tired of the onslaught of adaptations and sequels, the new film adaptation manages to do something quite “novel,” to turn a phrase. Director Mark Osborne has constructed something to surprise people familiar with the work without alienating those fans in the least.
The plot device of The Little Prince lay in the character of an un-named little girl (Mackenzie Foy), the only child of a single mother (Rachel McAdams) who’s fiercely dedicated to bringing her daughter up with the best opportunities available. Mind you, no one’s downtrodden and there’s not a lick of poverty in the film; rather, it’s as much an exploration of middle class upward mobility (that’s only too American) as it is anything else. Our little girl is bright, fun loving, and shy — nearly the inverse of our Little Prince. She meets the titular character through The Aviator, an ancient man played by Jeff Daniels who mirrors the spirit, life experiences, and adventures of the author of the original work: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Rather than create a period piece, like the recent French-themed children’s classic, Hugo, the film uses this seemingly wayward series of characters to bring contemporary relevance to a story that is steeped in an early to mid 20th century world. Unlike so many other contemporary stories, there is no Facebook, no smartphones, no streaming media. All of these contemporary, digital facets are removed in order for the film to focus on exploring something quite nebulous despite its analogue nature – the end of childhood.
It’s here that The Little Prince strikes hardest. This is no Peter Pan story, with a never-grow-up mantra; rather, it’s a tale that plays with different approaches to adulthood. Rachel McAdams’s Mother character is young and healthy, but alone and spends her days surrounded by incompetence and thus is overworked at her white collar job. She seeks comfort in knowing she can optimise her child’s chances for adult happiness if she can just get her into the right Hogwarts-esque school, and use a Westernized version of the tactics and planning that have come to be known as Tiger Momminess, maybe she can rest easy. But, as is so often the case, “the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men often go awry,” and The Little Prince begins to pull at your heart-strings when they do.
And so, through a little recklessness, some curiosity, and some danger, our little girl finds her neighbor, the ancient man named The Aviator, and hijinks ensue. She’s transported through stories that her mother believes are unproductive to this world, and in it, she finds a safe space between the ideals of her two mentors.
The film does some truly interesting things visually. As characters step through one real world into a world imagined, the setting moves from today’s CGI into the classic children’s film visual style of stop-motion animation — to extraordinary effect. Winds blow and rustle through both mediums, and characters move both seamlessly and recognizably from one to the other. These characterizations, it turns out, are similarly tied to time. The Mother is financially independent and focused; a hallmark of second wave feminism, even if at times she comes across as a little misguided surrounding the emotion health of her lonely child. The Aviator and the Little Prince are at once loving, humble, and yet selfish; in the archetype of 20th century aristocrats. On top of all those traits, these males are gentle, tender even, without giving up any of their masculinity. In this way, The Little Prince delivers a story that has significant lessons about behavior and society for both girls and boys that break away from the sort of tropes we’ve come to know in other animated works delivered by production companies like Disney. Our little girl is not at all afraid to show how bright she is, using talents in maths and storytelling to great effect, and thus overcoming the myth that the two disciplines are opposites. Once out of her shell, she’s affable and never to be underestimated. And yet with all of this subtext going on The Little Prince doesn’t feel burdensome, as many message movies would; or even overstuffed. Perhaps the reason it can accomplish all of these things is due to the way the film deals with a rather difficult concept for its target audience: Loss.
Loss abounds in The Little Prince. The Aviator is a man who flew planes in the WWI era, and his loss is tied to missing his friend (Marion Cotillard), The Little Prince. The Mother is constantly fearing the loss of her child’s future, the Little Prince (Paul Rudd) misses home and the Little Girl is dealing with the loss of childhood, amongst other things. The film doesn’t deliver explanations about all of these things, but what it does is create a platform for families to start their own conversations about the topic, which is, perhaps, the most valuable attribute of works designed and written with children in mind.
This adaptation of the 1943 children’s classic, The Little Prince debuted on 5th March at the 2016 Boulder International Film Festival. The film features several well known actors and was originally released in Paris on May 22, 2015 (French language) and will be available to U.S. cinema viewers (in English) on March 18 2016 in limited release and then on March 25, 2016 in wide release.