Review: ‘The Little Prince’ Is A Mostly Perfect Adaptation
The novella, “The Little Prince” isn’t simply a popular book.
What I mean by that is I’ve known many people in my life that have read it and for all of those people it’s not just a book they thought was really good, it’s a book that is IMPORTANT to them. So after seeing the frankly stunning looking trailers (they were the highlight of taking my nephew to see “Norm of the North”) and waiting for the distribution rights to get sorted out, I read it. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t read it, but it’s a simple little tale told extremely well and with some amazingly deep, lyrical writing. It is said that the author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s plane was shot down during World War II (unconfirmed as the body was never found) and that the German soldier who claims to be the one to have made the shot, cried upon learning it may have been his favorite author. I have no idea if that story is true, but it certainly speaks to the emotions that the book engenders to the readers. Needless to say the movie version has a lot to live up to. Be warned there will be spoilers for both the book and movie.
Cinematics (Plot, Acting, Cinematography, etc.) – 4.5
For those who have not read the book it is about a little prince who lives on an asteroid and takes care of a rose, however the rose is vain and causes the prince to travel through space to learn about love. He meets many strange characters on other asteroids (each one representing a silly aspect of adulthood) as he finally reaches earth. On earth he meets a fox who teaches him about taming someone and forming that relationship. Afterwards he meets the narrator of the book, an aviator who crash landed in the desert as he discusses what he has learned before being bitten by a snake and possibly dies or is sent back to his asteroid, it’s left up for the reader to decide. Now I mention the book’s summary because it’s in this film but it’s told as a story from the now older narrator to a little girl who lives next door. She and her mother are workaholics and she is being made to grow up way too fast. The first half is incredibly well done as we slowly get more of the little prince story and see how it affects the little girl. It all depends on how open you are to changes to a story but I honestly felt this wrap around story did a good job of tying into the book’s story and themes. Until we get about a hour in at the halfway point where they run out of the book’s story to tell. From this point the old man gets sick and the girl goes to find the little prince on an asteroid (using the old man’s plane) and finds the business man (one of the strange characters on other asteroids) has taken over and the little prince has grown up into a shell of the boy he once was. And before you ask yes they do strongly hint that this is all a dream but still for fans of the book this will be jarring to say the least. I’ll get more into my feelings on that in the next section however structurally I suppose it does makes sense.
The voice acting is top notch, not just from the many famous names who are very well casted in their roles but also the young child actors all don’t miss a beat and are on the same level. The little prince himself is the son of the director but it sounds like he got the role because he was legitimately good and not just nepotism. Visually this film is practically perfect. So they use 3-D animation for the scenes in the real world with the girl and good old stop-motion for the book’s scenes. First the 3-D is very well done. This is a relatively new animation studio but you wouldn’t know it from the quality of the textures and movement. A lot of the time these films made by a lesser known studio tend to look a few years behind Pixar and Dreamworks and while it’s not as impressive looking as those this holds its own nicely. It may have something to do with having a director (Mark Osborne of “Kung Fu Panda” fame) who has worked with the big dogs at the helm. May favorite parts in story and execution were the stop-motion sequences which looked great and did a superb job making it clear which was the story world and what wasn’t. It also helps that the style of the stop-motion figures basically looked exactly like the book’s original illustrations. As well it was just fascinating seeing what looked like paper models move, again making it look even more like the story on paper came to life. The score by Hans Zimmer and Richard Harvey is also fantastic to listen to and perfectly captures the mood.
Entertainment Value – 4
Now like I said the first half of the film is nearly perfect and I was hooked. If I had any criticism it would be there a part where the girl and mother get into an argument and she brings up her missing father. The problem is the movie never mentioned this before and something they could have focused on (or at least one scene) her missing her dad to make the moment in the argument more meaningful. Something else about the mother she just sort of changes at the end because… I’m not sure why other than that’s how these kinds of stories tend to end. However what exactly is it that makes her realize the importance of taking time off and enjoying simple pleasures like we use to when we were kids? I’m not sure, like I said she just changes for the better towards the end. When they do finish the book’s story the girl is devastated and in an interesting is an adaptation of the reaction many have to book which I thought was a rather interesting idea to do.
So let’s now dive into that 3rd act which will undoubtably be the sticking point for most fans. I think it was a mistake to make the business man the villain, I get that he’s more supposed to represent the idea of adulthood but making him the leader in this felt wrong. In the book (and movie) when the little prince meets him he’s buying and cataloging stars. The idea is that this is a meaningless endeavor as A.) you can’t really own a star and B.) you could never hope to own them all. He’s supposed to just be a symbol of adult pursuits like materialism that is frankly when looking at them some a simpler perspective is just silly. We know he’ll never get anywhere, a 100 years from now he’ll still be there counting stars with his calculator. I overall like the idea of adulthood in concept taking over being the conflict but connecting it to that character doesn’t feel right. Now I know that’s a lot of negatives but still overall I was still entertained and want to know where the story was going. But it’s where some of my disappointment with this adaptation lies, it turned it from what looked like was going to be a great film into a fairly good one.
Rewatchability – 3.5
I’m sure I’ll re-watch, I even considered re-watching it before sitting down to write this article. As a fan of the book it may something to do with my expectations and seeing it again knowing what the film actually is now may help me appreciate it. I suppose I’m still in the somewhat disappointed phase.
- Entertainment Value
This film adaptation can't live up to the book but then again how could it? However that being said the first half of the film is nearly perfect. However in the second half after they've run out of parts of the book to adapt and it fully becomes the film's story; it loses a lot of interest. People who have not read the book will probably not be as bothered by the fans. Even though it is flawed it's clear the filmmakers loved the book and tried very hard to capture it and for the MOST part they did. I give it 4 out of 5 stars on a string.
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