This is one of those movies you want to recommend despite its flaws because of its charm and message.
Written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince as a book is a childhood classic, yet also adult in its themes and satirical stylings, dealing with things such as loneliness, friendship, love, and loss. An aviator, after crashing in the Sahara desert, comes across a little Prince who lived on asteroid B-612 with a rose and three small volcanos. We learn about his journey to Earth and the people he met on other asteroids along the way, and his eventual journey back.
But the film wisely chooses not to simply take this story and put it on the screen. Instead it frames the story differently, while in many ways keeping true to the message behind it.
Here we have a young girl living in a world where she is under extreme pressure to succeed, study hard, get into the best school, to grow up. Every moment of her day is planned out, living in a neighbourhood where every house looks exactly the same as the others.
The aviator from the book, now an old man, lives there with what is left of his plane in a rickety house full of memories (he’s a self-proclaimed hoarder). But he tries to share his story about the Little Prince with the girl, and while she is at first horrified and reluctant, she eventually wants to know more, and learns to enjoy being a kid.
While this might seems like standard family fare on the surface, there is a deeper message that plays into the story, one that is shared in the book, and one I won’t go into in case you haven’t read the book and know how it ends.
One of the greatest strengths of this movie is how it chooses to split between CGI for the “real” story, and stop motion animation when it’s retelling portions of the aviator’s story. Funnily enough, even though the stop motion is highly stylized and less “realistic” than the CGI, it often comes across as more “real” to me. Part of me wishes the whole thing could have been stop-motion, but at the same time I think that juxtaposition really works, and helps sell its message.
It’s not a perfect film, though. The third act was easily the weakest part. While I appreciate where it was going and what it was trying to do, it actually did feel more like the standard family fare I said it was cleverly avoiding earlier–up until the end. I will admit, the final payoff did redeem itself a fair bit, and hit me in the gut.
Ultimately, this is a film worth watching, and I’m glad it didn’t just try to be the novella. It is its own story, with the novella wrapped up as part of it, which I think lovers of the book will appreciate. It feels like it’s building on something, rather than just retelling, and that’s always something to appreciate.