I actually first saw director Mark Osborne’s animated feature adaptation of Antoine de Saint Exupery’s 1943 children’s book Le Petit Prince when it had a splashy premiere at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Since then, The Little Prince has played around the world and made more than $100 million to date, but only now is it getting a U.S. release via Netflix and in a handful of theaters (including iPic in Los Angeles) that agree to the streaming service’s demand of playing theatrical movies day and date.
Paramount, which produced the troubled 1974 live-action version, was originally set to release the film wide as early as a year ago, but after sticking it on the shelf it finally abandoned the movie for whatever reason and Netflix picked it up. As I say in my video review above, none of this behind-the-scenes drama is due to the lack of quality on the part of the film, which is a real charmer and worthy of all the critical acclaim it has received wherever it has played. And now I hear Netflix is planning a big Oscar campaign to land it in the uber-crowded Animated Feature race this year. It’s worthy.
Of course nothing can compare to the wonder and emotion one gets from a first read of the book, which has been translated into 250 languages and sold more than 140 million copies. But Osborne (Kung Fu Panda) and his screenwriters Irena Brignull and Bob Persichetti have updated it for the screen creating a story of The Little Girl (voiced by Mackenzie Foy) who is swept into the magical world of the Little Prince (Riley Osborne) when she meets her old neighbor The Aviator (Jeff Bridges, at his grizzled best) and he shares his stories of his encounters in that land. She is presented as a studious little girl living in an exaggerated version of suburbia whose life with her single mother (Rachel McAdams) is centered on getting into an exclusive prep school. Her escape is The Aviator, who introduces her to such characters as The Rose (Marion Cotillard), The Fox (James Franco) and The Snake (Benecio Del Toro) along with others along the way including Conceited Man (Ricky Gervais), King (Bud Cort) and The Businessman (Albert Brooks). The films darts between her life at home and interactions with Aviator and then finally on a full-bodied trip there herself later on where she catches up with the now-older Prince (Paul Rudd) and learns such lessons like “it is only with heart one can see rightly.” It’s all very emotional and heartfelt, as well as being a good message picture about not abandoning your dreams.
The English-language voice cast makes for an impressive lineup and doesn’t distract from the core charm of it all. Hans Zimmer and Richard Harvey’s score hits all the right notes in setting a sweet tone. This film does not have, or desire, the same kind of frenetic action and overzealous plot points of many other animated summer hits like Finding Dory, The Secret Life Of Pets, The Angry Birds Movie, etc. Yes, there is some action to keep the youngest viewers watching, but it all fits without feeling forced. It’s genuine soft quality might have scared Paramount off, thinking kids today demand nonstop activity in their animated films. It would be a shame if a new generation, bombarded by cynicism and a far-too-fast-moving life, doesn’t see this movie that simply promotes our opportunity to reach for the stars.
The animation is gorgeous, with contemporary home life scenes in CGI and the world of The Little Prince in stunning stop-motion design. Producers are Dmitri Rassam, Aton Soumache and Alexis Vonarb.
Do you plan to see The Little Prince? Let us know what you think.