The Little Prince
Irena Brignull, Bob Persichetti (Novel: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
Jeff Bridges, Mackenzie Foy, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Riley Osborne, James Franco, Bud Cort, Benicio Del Toro, Ricky Gervais, Albert Brooks, Paul Rudd
PG for mild thematic elements
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. That adage has been used time and again to explore how children who are forced to do nothing but study and work will become dull and uninspired over time. The Little Prince tries adequately to convey that adage in the framework of a young girl with a mother insistent on a regimented life.
Hoping to make her daughter’s future as bright as possible, a mother (voiced by Rachel McAdams) has structured her daughter’s life to increase the viability of her chances of getting into and succeeding at a prep school experience. Moving into a new area, the young girl (Mackenzie Foy) seems lost in a sea of tedium when an elderly aviator (Jeff Bridges) next door attempts to connect with her.
Employing traditional computer animation for the base framework of the film, The Little Prince doesn’t come alive until it shifts into storytelling mode as the aviator weaves one fantastical tale after another about the titular prince. In these sequences, the style shifts to one that seems crafted wholly out of the parchment used in books, folded, crumpled, and flat, each made into a gorgeous tapestry of effects and adventures.
The surrounding story feels dull in comparison and while that ties directly into the theme, it doesn’t make the narrative flow very well. It’s a story about the need for children to mix pleasure and study in equal measure, enhancing the mind as well as the imagination. The colorful and richly textured fantasy sequences give support to that concept well even if the rest of the film struggles to feel as bountiful.
Foy as the young girl is a charming presence. She’s a part of almost every scene and each one feels more alive because of her performance. The same can be said for Ricky Gervais whose character feel distinct, yet connected. For the rest of the cast, the vocal work is solid even if not particularly exciting. Bridges, McAdams, James Franco, Bud Cort, Benicio Del Toro, Albert Brooks, and Paul Rudd never quite feel as valuable to the narrative, causing everything to feel perfunctory rather than exceptional.
This is a movie that dares to connect to children in a genuine and palpable way, engaging their imaginations at regular intervals. The story seems sure of its purpose, but never resonates as thoroughly as it needs to. Director Mark Osborne has an eye for the imaginative and that’s evident in the various otherworldly sequences featuring the Little Prince. To that extent, the film is buoyed by that vast creativity. Were it not saddled with a “real world” as tepid and manufactured as this one looks, it might have been more compelling.
Having said that, part of the allure of the film is being able to launch oneself out of the dreary mundanity of this little girl and soar into vast reaches where life and joy are abundant and crucial parts of our own stories. The Little Prince glides on the wind where it can with occasional updrafts of animated creativity, but ultimately it’s a downward trajectory that ends where expected, the journey feeling less exciting once it’s reached its conclusion.
September 4, 2018