First published 73 years ago, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince is one of the best-selling books in the history of ... well, books. It has been adapted for film and television a number of times, but none has been as memorable as the original novella. Will Mark Osborne’s 2016 adaptation fare any better? Probably not. But it tries really hard.
This new “The Little Prince” is told through three interconnected episodes, and in a unique take on the story, adds a lot.
The first third tells the tale of a no-nonsense mother preparing her daughter to enter a prestigious school where she will learn to become an essential cog in the machinery of modern society. The girl’s lonesome studies, however, are interrupted by her neighbor, an elderly aviator and the narrator of the original novella.
The budding friendship between the girl and the aviator leads to the second episode of the film, in which the Aviator relates the story of the Little Prince’s travels and their time together in the Sahara Desert. Though parts of the book have been dropped, most of its memorable characters show up, excellently voiced by stars such as Jeff Bridges, Ricky Gervais and Benecio del Toro.
The middle, too, is where this film really shines. Saint-Exupéry’s original watercolor illustrations are beautifully re-created using stop-motion animation. It looks just like the pages have sprung to life. If there’s one problem with the movie, it is that when it returns to the computer-animated parts, the characters seem like leftovers from a run-of-the-mill Disney or Dreamworks movie.
The fantastic elements of the story (for example, flying from planet to planet propelled by a flock of birds) awaken the girl’s imagination and sense of adventure. As a result, in the film’s third act, she decides to reunite the Little Prince and the Aviator. Most of the novella’s characters return, but in new roles as slaves to a rigid capitalist system built entirely around maximizing efficiency.
“The Little Prince” serves its source material well, exploring not just human nature but the power of feelings like despair and loneliness. (Viewers should have a box of tissues close at hand.) It’s definitely one of the best children’s movies currently on streaming.
email@example.com. Nick Gonzales is one of The Durango Herald newsroom’s resident film buffs. He welcomes movie recommendations. Follow him on Twitter @lackingzones.