Wednesday 27 May 2015

The Little Prince Review: A Lovely Adaptation

Loosely based on Le Petit Prince, a book by French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince is a film directed by Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda). It's a combination of two animation techniques: CG and stop-motion. Does the movie do justice to the source material? Yes, mostly. Read the review below.

The Little Prince expands on the original story, in a way that at first sight may seem out of place, but which totally makes sense by the end.
The plot opens with a little girl who has to follow a strict program to fulfil the life her controlling mother has already planned for her. When the Aviator - an eccentric old man who happens to be her new neighbour - tells her the story of the Little Prince, the girl starts questioning the choices her mother has made for her.

The Aviator is the link between the two stories told simultaneously in the film: the story of the little girl and the story of the Little Prince. The Aviator is the narrator in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's book, so it's logical an older version of the character would tell the tale to the little girl.

The film starts pretty slowly. The first scenes are fine, but the story truly begins when the Aviator introduces us to the Little Prince, in a scene that makes the transition from the world of the little girl (in CG) to the world of the Little Prince (in stop-motion); and it is a visually stunning moment. One that gave me goosebumps.
From there things become interesting, as the screenplay goes back and forth between the reality and the Aviator's tale; the second act of The Little Prince, while a tad long, finds a pretty good balance between the two stories and is a poetic and charming piece of animation.

Expanding on the book was necessary, as the source material isn't long enough to warrant a 90-minute film (The Little Prince, by the way, is 108 minutes long). But it was still a tricky thing to do. Le Petit Prince is - rightfully - regarded as a classic of literature, and adding scenes to the pre-existing novel could have been a disaster. The tone used by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is one-of-a-kind and trying to recreate it would have been risky. Therefore, the solution of having the little girl hear the story from the Aviator appears to be a smart choice.
It helps convey the messages of the book - it encourages us to think beyond appearances, to look for wonder everywhere and even questions mortality.
One could argue the 'story in the story' concept of the film is a way to dumb down Le Petit Prince for movie-goers. I would agree it's not ideal, but there's enough sincerity and emotion in the story of the little girl to make it entertaining.

The third act - which I won't spoil here - is the result of a pretty neat idea. It's at that moment, I think, that the film reaches its full potential.

Visually, the stop-motion sequences are unique. These scenes truly look like nothing else, and are the best looking of the movie. The design of the characters appearing in the book are very close to the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry drawings.
The CG isn't hideous; it's good, but it's something we're used to seeing. Some ideas in the world of the little girl are interesting, especially the contrast between the Aviator's house (full of colours and personality) and the rest of the city, all square and colourless.

All in all, The Little Prince is a delightful and moving story. Its heart is in the right place, and everyone involved in the making of the film seem to respect the original material and try to do it justice - from the animators, to the writers, to Hans Zimmer writing an inspired score.
Some details might not please everyone's taste, but children and adults will certainly find a lot to love in this movie.

Rating: 8/10

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