A little girl (Mackenzie Foy) is strictly structured by her all-business, all the time mom (Rachel McAdams). It’s summer time, and instead of playing she is to spend her days studying so she can impress her authorities at her oveestigious academy school, so she can get into a prestigious high school, so she can get into a prestigious university, so she can spend her adult life working hard and forcing her children to do the same – presumably.
When she’s studying home alone one day, a potentially unstable elderly gentleman next door (Jeff Bridges) starts his airplane and sends a propeller through the side of the girl’s house. This piques the girl’s curiosity – especially after he delivers her a page of a story he wrote about a little prince. Interested to find out more of the adventure, she befriends the man.
It’s easy to be cynical about the state of animated features these days. Human character design – especially for female characters – seems monotonous. Mark Osborne’s The Little Prince isn’t much of an exception there, which is its biggest flaw: if you’re rolling your eyes thinking about the tropes behind just another animated feature, then you’ll unhappily stew in self-satisfaction for about 20 minutes. The first act is slow, bland and in no way unique. But, it’s necessary, as it sets up a tone for which the fantastical nature of the rest of the film can counterpoint, at which point you’ll be proven wrong – don’t worry, you’ll be happy.
The Little Prince, based on the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, is a retelling, a sequel and a framework for the original children’s storybook. While it’s not all in there, the story is mostly told, and it’s the best part. The segments telling the story from the book are done in stop motion animation with beautifully designed puppets and scenery. If you’re a sucker for stop motion, then you’ll be eagerly sitting in your seat waiting to gulp up the next segments of delicious visuals.
The story climaxes with a fantastical dream-like adventure – a wonderful out-of-reality voyage that is necessary to the arc of the story and Mackenzie Foy’s little girl. These sequences leave the disappointing first act in the dust; it livens up the pace, design and emotion hidden within the characters. The Little Prince is heavy-handed about its point though, however, you might find yourself agreeing with what Osbourne’s film has to say about the western world being obsessed with productivity and results. Just ignore the fact that this adaptation of The Little Prince has been co-conceived by producers in the film and entertainment industry who have productivity and results on the mind.
By the time you get settled into The Little Prince, you’ll forgive how long it took for the spectacular elements to occur, having been swept away by awe striking animation and the pure, child-like fantasy the film ends up being.
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Trevor Jeffery: @TrevorSJeffery