Hello, everyone! It’s been an emotional few weeks for me as I prepare to head off to college. As one of our last hurrahs, my friends and I decided to watch Netflix’s new film The Little Prince, which we have been awaiting eagerly since the first trailers started showing almost a year ago. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novella is a wonderful piece of literature and naturally, we had high expectations. The movie surpassed all of our expectations and reduced a room of happy girls to balls of sniveling tears. So yeah, you should watch it.
Synopsis: A precocious little girl and her work obsessed mother have made it their life’s goal to get accepted into Werth Academy. After failing the interview, they move into Werth’s school district, which places them next to the eccentric house of a mysterious old man known as the Aviator. The mother presents the little girl with her life plan, an intensely detailed board that portions off every minute of the girl’s life for work or studying. She tells the girl that the whole summer will be spent studying to better prepare her for the first year of Werth Academy. When her mother is at work, however, the little girl befriends the Aviator. He tells her the story of the Little Prince and explains to her the perils of being a grown-up. Trapped between a mother focused on success and a desire to be more than just another grown-up, the little girl must discover the true meaning of the Little Prince’s story and learn that in life, what is essential is invisible.
My take: The Little Prince is arguably the most famous French books to have ever been published. It’s a novel that touches on adolescence, the fear of adulthood, an isolated society, the hardships of love, loss, death, and so much more. It’s also a book that was written for children, though like most children’s books worth reading, it is also highly accessible to adults. The book is still such a popular classic because even though it was written more than 70 years ago, it still resonates with humans of all ages. The book can mean whatever you want it to. When I read it two years ago, it was about growing up. When I watch the movie now, it’s about leaving home. Either way, it’s a book that makes you think and feel and of course, shed some tears. But now, onto the movie.
The movie uses the story of the little girl as a framing device for the Little Prince’s story. At first, I had qualms about them tacking on another story to that of the novella, but now I feel that it accentuated the Little Prince’s story instead of taking away from it. What really fascinated me, however, was not the little girl’s story, but the continuation of the prince’s story. There is a scene in the movie when the Aviator falls ill and the little girl decides that to cure him, she must find the Little Prince. I felt very much like a “grown-up” then, because my first thought was that she couldn’t find the prince because he was only a fantasy. When she does find him, sweeping chimneys on an asteroid that is sadly not his beloved B612, it was heart wrenching and illuminating. The ending of the novella has the Little Prince accept the bite of a poisonous snake in order to return to his asteroid and to his beloved rose. The general consensus is that he died from that snake bite. But in this movie, the writers took a different approach to the ending and asked a new question. If the snake really did transport the Little Prince, then where did he go? What if he never ended up back at his asteroid, but on another horrid little planet and was forced to be a grown-up like the rest of us?
It’s a sad prospect, but an intriguing one. Throughout the film, the Little Prince’s story is used as a coping device. The little girl uses his story as a bulwark against her overbearing mother, and the Aviator uses his story as a reminder to never grow up. When they introduce the real character of the Little Prince, however, and show him as an individual, who despite his intentions as a child, is both flawed and shaped by society, it adds a new dimension to the story as a whole. He’s no longer a perfect metaphor, but a human who has to grow and change. Even he needs the help of a child to help him remember what is essential.
A beautifully written story would be nothing without matching visuals. The Little Prince delivers magnificently on both fronts. In a fitting homage to the international appeal of the original story, the movie was created by the United States, France, and Canada. There are two animation styles: standard computer animation for the girl’s story, and a delicate, papery stop motion for the intertwined story of the Little Prince. The computer animation reminded me of Pixar’s style; the face of one of the characters was very similar to Ratatouille’s Anton Ego. The stop motion was a joy to watch and an inspired way of incorporating Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s original drawings into the movie. A superb cast was the cherry on top. Jeff Bridges has settled into his predestined role as the ornery old man with a heart of gold. If god be willing, he shall never again play any other character. Besides the consistently talented voices of Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Benecio del Toro, and Albert Brooks, I thought the real standout was Mackenzie Foy as the little girl and Paul Rudd as the grown-up Little Prince. Foy’s character was only 8 years old, but Foy imbued her character with maturity and grace. She’s come a long way since playing Renesmee in Twilight. I loved Rudd’s voice too, in all of it’s comforting goofiness. I had trouble placing it at first, but as soon as I heard his joyful bewilderment, I felt all warm and fuzzy and sad inside. The only casting choice I didn’t like was James Franco as The Fox. His voice is recognizable, but not in a good way. The Fox is supposed to be very wise and sensitive, but Franco just sounds like a douchey weirdo. Perhaps it’s the prior connotation I have with the actor, but still, not my favorite casting choice.
Besides a little less James Franco, my only criticism is that I wish they had spent more time on the love story between The Rose and the Little Prince. His entire journey is prompted by his love and frustration for her, but the movie barely gave her five minutes. Apart from the Little Prince, she’s perhaps the most important character in the story. I also wish that the movie had been in French because I think the original prose in the French story is more beautiful than the English translation, but again, I’m biased because I read the book in French class. And if it was in French, you can bet that it wouldn’t sell very well in the US because too many viewers hate foreign languages, France, subtitles, and reading in general. So if they had to make the movie in English to get it made, then for that I approve, but I do think it’s bizarre that French moviegoers would have to watch their own nation’s story with subtitles. It would be like Americans watching Independence Day in Chinese.
Final Consensus: The Little Prince is a treat to watch. The story is a classic that can appeal to children and resonate deeply with adults. From the stunning visuals to the talented voice acting, this is a must-see. For god sakes it’s on Netflix! You don’t even have an excuse not to watch it!
For all of you original soundtrack freaks, here you go. It’s another Hans Zimmer masterpiece. Reminds me of the soundtrack from Atlantis but also has those stirring violins from the Village. It’s very James Newton Howard, now that I think about it.