Director: Mark Osborne
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, James Franco, Benicio Del Toro, Ricky Gervais, Paul Giamatti, Albert Brooks, Mackenzie Foy (all voice)
So, it’s Thursday evening and I’m (rather uncharacteristically) in the mood for a nice, happy film. I scour Netflix and one film keeps jumping out at me – ‘The Little Prince’. I’ve seen countless people mentioning how “lovely” and “beautiful” the film is, so I plump for it, on the off-chance that my cold heart might be defrosted by this quaint little animation flick. Now, I’m not one to get all emotional over a film – unless it’s ‘The Green Mile’ (gets me every time) – but I have to admit, I was truly touched by this charming Netflix Originals gem; so much so that I decided to write up a review for the first time in months.
The story mainly revolves around an unusual friendship between an eccentric old man and his new neighbour – a young girl, who is pressured into being mature beyond her years, driven to success at all costs, by her pushy mother. The old man, known simply as “The Aviator”, is a bit of a dreamer, and he begins to share his dreams and stories with the young girl. As we weave in and out of reality and a delightful paper-based fantasy world, we meet “The Little Prince” and traverse the various planets and people he visits. But, the story needs an ending, so the little girl goes searching for “The Little Prince” in the hope of providing “The Aviator” with the perfect conclusion.
The idea of an old man and a young child becoming friends and going on a journey together may have been done before (a la Up, amongst others), but I would argue this is the most emotionally-charged and endearing relationship of its kind. Jeff Bridges lends his voice to “The Aviator”, and far from the gruff, outlandish Bridges we are used to, this character really brings out his soft, gentle side and it is this warmth which really underpins the on-screen chemistry of the two lead characters. There’s plenty of support characters that add to the entertaining, charming element of ‘The Little Prince’ though, with Ricky Gervais, James Franco, Paul Rudd and Marion Cotillard (amongst others) also providing their vocal talents.
There is a surprising amount of depth and development to the character arc of the little girl (we never do get to learn her name) at the heart of the story; we witness a real change in her whole attitude to life and her relationship with the world. In a way, there are two, maybe three, stories being told here, and each one is brilliantly crafted – both visually and in the handling of the narrative. Speaking of visuals, the animation on show here is quite stunning. In the “real world”, everything is nice and crisp but with a playful edge, and then in the Prince’s fairytale world, classical stop-animation not only serves to separate the two worlds, but is quite beautiful in its own way.
This film is about as close as an animation has come to making me cry since ‘Monsters Inc’ reduced me to tears way back when I was a child. This film addresses issues and themes which make it resonate as much with an adult as it would with a young child, if not more. Every adult secretly wishes they had never grown up (I’m not alone, right?), and ‘The Little Prince’ shows us that, maybe, you don’t have to completely forget what it’s like to be a child with dreams and a fun-filled life. Whether you’ve got kids or not, load up Netflix and stick ‘The Little Prince’ on; you won’t regret it.