Featuring The Voices Of: Mackenzie Foy, Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Ricky Gervais, James Franco, Marion Cotillard, Benecio Del Toro, Albert Brooks, Paul Giamatti, Bud Cort, Riley Osborne
Directed By: Mark Osborne
On one hand, you could call this film a triumph for Netflix. It’s an original animated film from them that is exquisite, and just as good as anything that’s hit theatres this year, if not better. On the other hand, you can be angry that this was actually slated for theatrical release, then dumped, before Netflix saved it. I don’t know why it was banished to Netflix, or why its previous studio had no faith in it. It’s a beautifully done animated film packed with some really great ideas on growing up and getting old. It’s not a silly slapstick animated cartoon, but a meaningful discussion on friendship, death, and the pressure we put on children to succeed.
It’s also not really an adaptation of The Little Prince, but a tribute to The Little Prince. The film is actually about a little girl (Foy), whose mom (McAdams) puts her under extreme pressure to succeed in life and get into the best school. They move to a neighborhood specifically for her to go to the best school. They end up next door to The Aviator (Bridges), who is now an old man, but is also the aviator from The Little Prince. So, in some ways, this is almost a sequel to the book. He and the girl form a friendship as he tells her the story of The Little Prince, and this girl who has known nothing but textbooks her whole life, is opened up to a world of imagination and adventure. It’s a film that champions the power of books, and how they can change a childs life.
Of course, Mom isn’t too happy about this, and tries to keep the little girl from seeing the Aviator, because he’s old and crazy and she needs to be studying. Nevertheless, as the girl works her way through the story, we see parallels in the story to what’s going on in her life. As the book gets closer to its ending, so does her story with the Aviator, and it’s that connection that will break your heart, but also is the true strength of the film. That’s when you realize you care about these cartoons, and have become invested in their futures. It’s normally a connection you make only with a few choice Pixar films, or maybe the occasional How To Train Your Dragon, but The Little Prince manages that same emotional reaction from its characters.
I did have a problem with The Mother, and her almost cartoonishly out-of-touch “Bad Mom” persona. When her daughter announces that she made a friend, she goes to her daughters life map board, and declares that she won’t have time to see the friend until next summer, on Thursdays. Come on now. You can have a busy working mother who is dedicated to her child without making her some irrelevant villain at the same time. That was the point where I realized we weren’t getting a seriously written mother, but instead a plot device used to push the girl closer to the Aviator. So, two really well written characters, but the third… not so much.
The animation in the film is first-rate, with the scenes from The Little Prince book being some of the most original conceptual animation I’ve seen since Coraline. Its a film by dreamers, for dreamers, and it’s easily accessible on Netflix streaming. If you have Netflix, this is an absolute must-see. A well told story for kids of all ages, even the grown up ones.
FINAL GRADE: A-