It’s hard to think of another literary adaption more creatively translated to the big screen than Mark Osborne’s The Little Prince, a stop-motion and CGI animation based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 novella of the same name. The story itself – which has sold 140 million copies, more than Charlotte’s Web, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Cat in the Hat combined – exists in this new tale, written by a little girl’s new off the rocker neighbor.
The neighbor, known only as The Aviator (Jeff Bridges), tells of a story of when his plane crash-landed in the Sahara desert, where he met a little boy (Riley Osborne, the director’s son) who tells him he’s from an asteroid and has encountered many fantastical elements.
Where the movie breaks from its source material is introducing a little girl, known only as The Little Girl (Mackenzie Foy, Interstellar), whose mother (Rachel McAdams) only wants the best for her. So she commands the kid to a whole Summer of studying after moving for the sole purpose of bringing her to a better school. The Little Girl understandably disapproves, and goes behind her mother’s back to hang out with her new crazy neighbor.
The movie pokes fun at the monotonous lifestyle that so many people desire. Sweat yourself through school, then sweat yourself at a high-paying but stressful occupation, then die rich. The Little Girl and The Aviator laugh at this notion, and believe pure tranquility is achieved through imagination and a whole lot of heart.
The filmmakers decided to adapt the original story through these character’s eyes, having The Aviator act as the narrator from the book and setting off The Little Girl on her own adventure in the latter half of the film. Osborne (Kung Fu Panda) starts off introducing his character, then retells Saint-Exupéry’s original tale, and then goes off on his own, constantly paying tribute to the material.
Screenwriters Irena Brignull (The Boxtrolls) and Bob Persichetti treat the original novella as a secondary source, only using the tale as a means to tell their own. It’s a rarity that is only hindered by some uninspired dialogue and blatantly obvious messages.
Even with that, the movie still has a cool look – with the original novella told through gorgeous stop-motion and the new story told with “meh” CGI that works thanks to the creativity with its design – and has a star-studded cast that includes James Franco, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, and more, with every one of them game for the material.
And how couldn’t they be? The themes of childlike wisdom and “going against the system” relate to anybody with a pulse, and the way the novella is adapted will please those with knowledge of the source material. So read up on one of the most popular books ever made, and only then can you truly appreciate the work that went into this delightfully clever film.