The Little Prince Review: A Welcome Break In Routine

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As the summer 2016 movie doldrums continue, one of the better films to come out this summer, indie or otherwise, can be found on the small screen. Netflix’s The Little Prince is a warm delight full of heart, imagination, and wonder. Adapting the classic children’s novella using stop-motion animation and intercutting those sequences around a more modern CG animated story, the film is undeniably ambitious. Director Mark Osborne isn’t all that interested in a direct adaptation, instead using a story outside of the book to celebrate the work itself and expand upon it.

We open in what feels like a dystopian suburbia. A working single mother (Rachel McAdams) is raising her daughter, Violet (Mackenzie Foy), to be an adult. Her schedule, a magnetic board laying out every action she’ll take for the entire summer that her mother calls “the life plan,” doesn’t allow much room for anything other than studying. But she makes a friend out of the next door neighbor, the Aviator (Jeff Bridges channeling “The Dude”), who’s house is the only one not made out of the identical, concrete floor plan. He tells her the story of the Little Prince, forcing her mind out of the books and into the stars.

The film’s lesson is directed more at the adults who forgot what it meant to be a kid than the kids stuck studying inside trying to achieve an unattainable perfection. The themes here are simple and direct. That simplicity works for or against the film all throughout, but mostly for it. These story beats have been checked off before in multiple Studio Ghibli films, but stripped down, they work here once again. It’s the stark contrast of the mother and the Aviator’s perspectives that puts Violet in emotional turmoil.

But the emotional peak of the film comes too soon at an hour in, just before Violet embarks on a journey alone that the story doesn’t dare tell us is real or not. From there, we have 45 more minutes of story that goes on just a few hairs too long. The resolution is still on point, and will leave most audiences reaching for the tissues, but the overall experience does feel slightly damaged.

Still, there’s no denying that The Little Prince beautifully taps into the human spirit as it is meant to be. Violet’s journey is one people of all ages can relate to, whether searching for their young, creative self, or trying desperately to get that version of themselves back. Its simplistic view of growing up wonderfully synthesizes with both the stylized animation and the more traditional graphics, creating a world both familiar and ever so slightly heightened. For that, The Little Prince overcomes its less original aspects and grows into the most emotionally resonant animated film of the summer. Grade: B+ 

By Matt Dougherty

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