The Little Prince Parent Review
Despite appearances, it is older audiences who will be mostly to appreciate this film, which is based on a literary masterpiece.
Have you ever noticed how some classic children’s stories really aren’t written for kids? Take Mary Poppins or Peter Pan for example. Each has a cautionary message for adults about the dangers of forgetting their childhood. Interestingly enough, French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s famous tale The Little Prince also points out how “odd” grownups can be, and reminds readers to hang on to the wonders of world the way they saw them through youthful eyes. Sadly, I think it is that very theme which proves to be the underlying problem with this movie.
In this beautifully crafted animation, writers Irena Brignull and Bob Persichetti cleverly weave Saint-Exupéry’s novel into a screenplay about being raised in the modern world. Anything taken from the pages of the book is depicted in delightful stop-frame animation. Scenes from the “real” world are created with highly polished computer graphics.
An over-achieving mother (voice of Rachel McAdams) grooms her little girl (voice of Mackenzie Foy) for entrance into a prestigious private institution. When the coaching fails, the single mom looks for an affordable home within the school’s district so her daughter’s acceptance will be guaranteed. The house she finds is in her price range because it is next door to a local eyesore: the unkempt residence of a crazy old man who calls himself The Aviator (voice of Jeff Bridges).
Left on her own each day with only a rigorous “life plan” to dictate how she spends her time, it is not too surprising when The Little Girl gets distracted by the goings-on in the neighbor’s backyard and decides to check out the situation. What she finds is a friend, a whimsical paradise and fertile soil for her budding imagination. The Aviator is also happy to have a buddy, especially because he has a story he wants to share. And so unfolds the tale of the small royal (voice of Riley Osborne) who leaves his home on a tiny asteroid to see the universe.
The Little Prince is an allegory that explores the motivations of adults (power, greed, vanity), the ability of love to tame a wandering heart and the tragedy of valuing things only if they are essential. It also touches on the inevitability of death and hope for unseen happiness. Those are some very complex ideas, and in order to depict them visually the film features some strange characters, frightening scenes, perilous situations and sad moments. Despite all the creativity of the original story and the amazing artistic interpretation manifest here, the metaphor will still be difficult for a child to decipher—even The Little Girl in the movie becomes disenchanted when she fears The Aviator might just be trying to prepare her for his final farewell.
The real shame with this production is that it looks like it is targeted at children, when really it is aimed at adults. Unlike some other titles that seem to be able to deliver to both audiences at the same time, this one flounders. It manages okay during the first two thirds of the film where even if kids miss the deeper messages they will still likely be able to enjoy the contrast between the orderly monotones of the Mother’s world with the colorful chaos of the Aviator’s. But the final act launches The Little Girl into a dark cityscape where evil educators try to rob her childhood and insatiable businessmen lay claim to all that is bright in the universe. Without an understanding of the intended satire, these sequences will appear unnecessarily scary.
Yet for older viewers and those who can appreciate it as an art form, this animated version of the literary masterpiece does a masterful job of reminding us that, “Only with your heart can you see rightly.” It also begs us never to forget the things we learned and cherished during our childhood.Directed by Mark Osborne. Starring Rachel McAdams, Mackenzie Foy, Paul Rudd, Riley Osborne . Running time: 108 minutes. Theatrical release August 5, 2016. Updated August 5, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in The Little Prince here.
The Little Prince Parents Guide
Why does the Aviator say, “Grownups never understand”? What gets lost as a child changes into an adult? Is it bad to take on responsibility, get an education and work at a job? Why is it easy to forget the way we saw the world as a child?
What is Mom’s worst fear for her daughter? What does it reveal about her personal worries? What is the Aviator’s greatest concern for The Little Girl? What insight does this give us about him? How do both of these adults influence The Little Girl’s perspective about life?
In this allegorical story, what ideas do you think are being represented by The King (voice of Bud Cort), The Conceited Man (voice of Ricky Gervais), The Businessman (voice of Albert Brooks), The Rose (voice of Marion Cotillard), The Fox (voice of James Franco) and The Snake (voice of Benicio Del Toro)?
Why do you think The Little Prince has to run away from The Rose before he can understand how important she is to him? What does The Little Prince learn when he tames The Fox? Why does he listen to the promises of The Snake? What sort of a journey does he intend to take when he says he must leave his “shell” behind? How is The Aviator’s belief that he will one day join The Little Prince a metaphor for faith in life after death?