The Little Prince movie full length review - Little Boy Lost
(RATING: ???? out of 5 )
THIS FILM IS RECOMMENDED.
IN BRIEF: A noble effort by an animator whose artistic talent exceeds his narrative skills.
SYNOPSIS: Saint-Exupéry classic tale of The Little Prince is told with a modern day parallel story about a little girl coping in an adult world.
JIM'S REVIEW: Mark Osborne's film, The Little Prince, is a flawed work of art, an animated effort to weave Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's beloved novella with a more conventional story about a sweet little girl (Mackenzie Foy) dealing with an overbearing mother (Rachel MacAdams). The parallel stories never gel and the heavy-handed plotting of the more modern tale frays and unravels the lyrical narrative structure of the original classic source.
Purist beware! The Little Prince is a misnomer. More time is spent with The Little Girl than our regal hero (Riley Osborne) who is merely a side story to her modern day tale. Saint-Exupéry's story is parceled out sporadically as vignettes as the girl befriends an eccentric neighbor, The Aviator (Jeff Bridges), who proceeds to tell his account of the lost boy who loves a rose (Marion Cotillard). The filmmaker takes far too many liberties with the plot and downplays or ignores some characters in the book, only hinting at the philosophical dialog of the parable.
That said, visually, the film is artistry of the highest order with images and details that are lovely. Mr. Osborne's creative vision melds old-fashioned line drawing (similar to the book's actual illustrations), stop-motion animation, and computer generated imagery in telling his dual stories. At times, the techniques work and other times it creates a jarring mood swing. (It actually takes 20 minutes before the moviegoer is transported to the world of The Little Prince, and I must admit that I grew impatient and my thoughts questioned the artistic journey that took place in Mr. Osborne's sub-conscious. I thought. "Imagine what he could have created if he only stayed more closely to Saint-Exupéry's original text! If only The Little Prince would not have been a tag-along story to The Little Girl!")
Still, his images are noteworthy and masterfully done. Here are just a few moments to admire: a roomful of glowing stars, line-drawn characters that bounce and distort handwritten words, that yellow sunlit scarf blowing in the wind, shadows transforming into birds and planes, and finally becoming a free-flowing kite, aerial geometric views of streets and buildings, a colorful parachute that slowly drapes around its characters, a Rube Goldberg chain reaction involving the takeoff of an airplane. Just stunning! All of the various styles of animation are beautifully rendered.
But the screenplay by Irena Brignull and Bob Persichetti loses its way, especially in its third act when the screenwriters take our heroine on a magic mystery flight and cheat death by making the story more uplifting and crowd-pleasing. It does a disservice to Saint-Exupéry's tragic fable of life. The filmmakers falter when they try to connect the modern day counterparts with the more poetic characters and their encounters. The analogy comes off forced and the journey burns and crashes at this point, becoming a trivial pursuit.
Mr. Osborne is a creative talent to watch and one can only look forward to his next endeavor. Technically, his re-imagining of Saint-Exupéry's parable is well crafted and quite impressive in animation terms. Although the film's two parallel tales align in spirit, they do not in their individual storytelling. They remain literally worlds apart and the result is a mixed blessing. The Little Prince is a visual stunner but its narrative ultimately lacks the poetic vision of its inspiring and more memorable source.
NOTE: The behind-the-scenes making of Saint-Exupéry's book had some strange occurrences and Mr. Osborne's animated film had its share of odd happenings as well. Made nearly two years ago, and a modest hit overseas, the movie was unceremoniously dumped, never received proper distribution from its studio, Paramount, and just opened theatrically this past weekend at select cities while being streamed simultaneously on Netflix. It deserves a wider audience and should be seen by any serious fan of animation.
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