In France, The Little Prince is a true children's classic, one of those iconic fairy tales that's so perfect as it is that every adaptation since has paled in comparison. This month, Netflix brings us this animated film loosely based on Antoine de Saint-Exupery's novella.
Bizarrely pulled from theaters a week before its 3D cinema release, the film was instead distributed on the popular streaming network and it's done well with critics and audiences alike. A very loose adaptation of the book, the film focuses on the story of a little girl and her mother as they move into a new house and the latter plans her daughter's entire life before she enrolls into a prestigious school. The little girl befriends an old man who lives next door as he introduces her to the story of The Little Prince. The parts of the movie that tell the classic story, I must admit, look beautiful: the stop-motion work is impressive and the paper-themed visual style proves to be a perfect match with the surreal tale.
Unfortunately, those parts are rushed through leaving the viewer no time to think about the often moving and deep story or its unique characters. The best thing about the novella is the quiet, mysterious, alien mood it creates yet this film purposely leaves a lot of important elements out to make way for the real world-set CG-animated framing device to the point where it feels like the original story has somehow been swallowed up and spat out by a lesser Pixar movie. Then, in a further distraction we get a frankly random third act which acts like a sequel to the book, which is a silly idea since we barely get a good look at the original story in the first place.
The film seems to think that drawing a parallel between the little girl's friendship with the old man and the aviator's relationship with the Little Prince is both necessary and adds a lot to the timeless story but it's exactly the opposite. The humour, the CG animation and the little girl's story are so painfully pedestrian you groan whenever they cut away from the Prince and, ultimately, you just end up wishing they had just told the original story and not bothered with all the other thoroughly uninteresting stuff. The voice cast includes the likes of Rachel MacAdams, Marion Cotillard, Jeff Bridges, Paul Rudd, Ricky Gervais (the best of the bunch) and Paul Giamatti.
I could go on but suffice it to say that while this new adaptation has a gorgeous-looking Little Prince tale in there somewhere, it remains a clumsy, overlong effort which simplifies the French story's morals to the point where it feels just as shallow as every other animated film out there.