Friday, April 21, 2017

The Little Prince

THE LITTLE PRINCE (Mark Osborne, 2015)

The Little Girl (Mackenzie Foy) in THE LITTLE PRINCE is being groomed by her Mother (Rachel McAdams) to be a striver in a dog-eat-dog world. She bombs the entrance interview to get into the prestigious Werth Academie, but a move into the right house within its district and a meticulous and demanding summer schedule of preparatory work are anticipated to launch her on the path to success. While other kids might balk at a summer of intense studying while a parent is away at work, the Little Girl naturally takes to it.

Her focus is tested when she meets the old man who lives next door. The Aviator (Jeff Bridges) gets her attention to wander with the creaky, old plane he’s trying to repair and stories of his desert encounter years ago with the Little Prince (Riley Osborne), a boy who lives on an asteroid. The Little Girl and the Aviator’s friendship lead her to searching for the Little Prince when the old man grows ill and becomes unable to look for him.

THE LITTLE PRINCE adapts Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic novella of the same name and puts the book within a contemporary story, thus using it as a leaping off point for expansion. The framing device has practical reasons because without it there likely isn’t enough source material to mold into a feature film. There’s creative justification too, as the things de Saint-Exupéry bemoaned in 1943 have surely increased in today’s world. If he was worried about child-like wonder being stamped out on the path to adulthood, he probably would not be heartened by the emphasis on practicality in education and the culture today.

This reworking of THE LITTLE PRINCE complements the original’s concerns about how the process of growing up can result in the loss of curiosity and lack of appreciation for intangible pleasures with values hard to quantify in a market-driven society. Parental insecurities about their child’s future and the desire to optimize time to increase marketability and competitiveness are rightfully significant. Still, maligning play and contemplation, or treating them as goods only if they have discretely applicable ends, undermines development of the whole child.

THE LITTLE PRINCE employs two styles: three-dimensional computer animation for the contemporary portions and stop-motion watercolors for memories of the Little Prince. Scenes rendered in the newer method impress with their sleekness while the older style contains warmth and personality, qualities that often leak out when seeking to conform to look like every other CGI-animated film now. The standardized perfection of the contemporary scenes are not artless, but to a degree they represent what the film wishes to resist, namely efficiency prized over wonder. There can be beauty in both. In using different styles, THE LITTLE PRINCE integrate the practical and the dreamy as a guide to remembering how they feed one another.

Grade: B

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