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Little Prince (Blu-ray + Digital), The
We all have to grow up and leave behind a significant chunk of our childhood innocence and idealism, but that doesn't mean that we have to forget. We neither need to become lifeless cogs in a machine to prove our usefulness nor should we leave all responsibility behind and spend an illusory existence of arrested development. Life isn't a zero-sum game, and no matter how drab and monotone it can get, magic can be found everywhere and everything. We just have to remember where to look for it.
Antoine De Saint-Exupery's novella The Little Prince, full of boundless abstract imagination and bittersweet allegory on the child's mind slipping into the rigid confines of adulthood, is timeless and unique in the way that it indulges in its giddy magic while confronting the adult's conflict. The original book is full of zany and charming illustrations and builds an in-universe that's boundless in its creativity. Visually, it's a perfect building block for a colorful bit of family animation, but the content could have easily been condensed into a more cookie-cutter "believe your dreams" narrative that would have undermined the novella's blend of bitter idealism.
Thankfully, director Mark Osbourne's vision does the source material justice by expanding certain narratives that needed to be explored in order to build a more traditional feature structure, while always maintaining Saint-Exupery's vision. The novella's core story becomes a framing device here, with a protagonist created for the screenplay adaptation, known only as Little Girl (Mackenzie Foy), whose every move is strictly monitored by her overbearing mother (Rachel McAdams) in order to prepare her for the perfect career when she reaches adulthood.
She becomes our conduit to meet The Aviator (Jeff Bridges), the narrator of the novella, who's now a kooky old man building a plane in his backyard in order to once again soar to the skies and relive his magical experiences with The Little Prince (Riley Osbourne) who travels away from his one-man planet to find meaning in the universe. The first half of the script covers the beats of the book through a marvelous blend of traditional CG animation and storybook-style stop motion.
The second half becomes an original adventure that takes its cues from the book and does it justice, bringing the story full circle without compromising its ideals by making it cookie-cutter family-friendly fare. We can all think of examples when an adaptation of a children's novel becomes successful and an original sequel script is produced a couple of years later to cash in on that success. The Little Prince plays out as if the adaptation and its sequel are compressed delightfully into the same movie.
I was bummed when The Little Prince became a Netflix release when the initial plan was to get it out to the theatres. This is a big-screen experience, with a dazzling cornucopia of various stunning animation and design styles, and a world of boundless imagination. At least this 1080p transfer does an excellent job of capturing the tones of these disparate styles. The modern world that the little girl lives in is drab and grayscale, and the muted colors are represented with a solid contrast. Once we're in the colorful and magical world of The Aviator, the vibrant and earthy colors pop out of the screen.
The lossless DTS-HD 7.1 track beautifully merges the charming score and the creative worldbuilding that the sound mix presents. There isn't much surround presence here, but the track shows great range and clarity.
The Making of The Little Prince: A 30-minute featurette that manages to condense quite a bit of the entire production process into bite-sized information.
Turn Around: A cute music video for the song by Camille.
Endearing and captivating in all the right ways, The Little Prince remains an overlooked gem that didn't make much of a splash in 2015 perhaps because it was hard to easily categorize it as popcorn family entertainment. The solid new release certainly should give it a second chance.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com