On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at the animated adaptation of the classic children’s story, The Little Prince.
Based on the book of the same, The Little Prince tells the story of a young girl burdened by her inattentive but well-meaning mother with a cold, mechanical view of the world. Her life is little more than extended study sessions and dreams of being a student at a prestigious prep school. No time for playing, imagination, or even friends.
But with the help of the eccentric old man who lives next door, she’ll soon discover that life has much, much more to offer than nice schools and a job in a big office building.
AN UNFORTUNATE TRUTH
The cold, unfortunate truth is that The Little Prince is more than a bad movie–it’s a pretentious, arrogant piece of filmmaking that dares to presume that the story it tells is superior in every way to the material it falsely claims to be adapting.
A much-beloved children’s book, The Little Prince is the story of an aviator who crashes in the Sahara only to meet and befriend a young boy who claims to have come from the stars. And as the aviator works on repairing his plane, the boy–the titular Little Prince–shares stories of all the strange and colorful places, things, and people he’s met. These stories are somber, simple but effective bits of storytelling musing on life and human nature.
The movie, directed by Mark Osborne, is instead a simple story about a girl who learns to embrace her own innocence and creativity.
Not that the story does anything but fall flat time and again. It takes forever for the movie to get moving. It never really goes anywhere. And it even abandons its own themes several times throughout, adopting a new one in each act. By the end, it fails to conclude the story it kicked off some 90-minutes earlier.
Oh, and it also has some elements of the book lazily thrown into it.
Worse, the movie strip-mines the original book of its characters, stories, and themes to craft what is essentially an unofficial sequel. And all with the belief that it is somehow making something better.
For a quick point of reference, recall Disney’s wonderful adaptation of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.
1977’s The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh adapts several notable stories from Milne’s work as a series of loosely connected shorts. And from beginning to end, the movie stays true to the spirit of the stories and characters while also adding in purely Disney elements.
What Osborne and company did with The Little Prince would be the same as Disney shoe-horning in a couple of these Winnie the Pooh shorts into an unrelated movie about a lonely little girl with inattentive parents.
It doesn’t just break the flow of the movie, it’s wholly disrespectful of a cherished work of children’s literature. In the end, The Little Prince is less an adaptation and more of a supporting player in a visually lovely but morally and spiritually bankrupt movie.
WHAT’S IN A TITLE
I have never seen a movie with such disdain for its own source material as The Little Prince. Even The Lawnmower Man had the decency to steal only the title of Stephen King’s short story.
Yes, the animation is lovely. Yes, the cast is filled by talented, recognizable stars–including Jeff Bridges as the Aviator. There are indeed well-done aspects of the movie. However, the central story and characters are boring and poorly executed. The various emotional beats of the little girl’s friendship with the now-elderly Aviator is unearned. The conflict is hollow. On the one hand, it’s an excuse to present the story plainly, as this book within a movie. But on the other hand, it’s also eager to flat-out ignore what made the book–and it’s name–so beloved in the first place.
This isn’t a movie for the fans. It isn’t a movie for children. It isn’t even for the parents who are likely watching it with their children. This movie is, in every way, a movie for no one. And because of that, it’s also a NO CHILL.