Hello, Spongey here.
I don’t usually bust out two general reviews in one weekend, but I had to this time. But first a bit of backstory. In 1943, french author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry released a novellea…i had never heard of until Mr Coat did a video on it.
It has since become a beloved classic with tons of adaption. Seriously, there have been graphic novels, plays, radio shows, and of course plenty of films. With this many versions, how have I never heard of it?!
However, there hasn’t been a theatrically released film version here in America…and it kind of still hasn’t happened but now they’ve come close. Apparently this is an English Language film made in France.
It saw release in a few countries, enough to get plenty of reviews. They full planed a US Release back in March, to the point where I even got the trailer…in front of Norm of the north. No comment.
But at last minute, Paramount pulled it. Why? I have no idea. Maybe they thought Monster Trucks was more important. Thankfully, Netflix picked it up and put it out this weekend. Because it was going to be in theaters here, I decided to count it out for a full review.
And thus, it is illegible for my best and worst of the year lists. Before you ask, Killing Joke won’t be reviewed because it is a pure DVD film that happened to get a few special screenings.
Since this comes to us from the director of Kung Fu Panda, and the writer of The Boxtrolls, I was already interested in it, but I became more hype when I read the reviews. It currently has a 93 on RT with some plenty loving it.
As someone who hasn’t read the book, it’ll be interesting judging this on it’s own. Now that I can finally see it, will it deserves it’s high percentage like Zootopia, or will it be underwhelming to me like Jungle book? Let’s find out!
This, is The Little Prince
The animation is interesting because it actually uses two different styles. Most of the new stuff is in CGI, while the stuff from the book is in stop motion. This is an interesting concept and I think they pull it off in terms of style.
The CGI models do a look a bit too much like everything else out there, but the look makes up for it. The character animation itself is nothing special, but I like how everything looks bleak to match the girl’s situation and how her mother wants thing to be orderly.
It looks better in the 3rd act, but we’ll get to that. Of course, the stop motion shines the most. It’s hard to describe but it’s very stylized and simple, and looks very unique and interesting. It makes up for the fact that it’s not quite mind blowing like some stop motion out there.
The animation itself is simply decent but the style they go for makes it unique and nice to look at. Not much else to say but trust me, the rest of the review will make up for it.
A prestigious mother wants to enroll her daughter into Werth Academy, imposing a life plan that leaves little for leisure. The Little Girl however becomes distracted an elderly retired aviator who tells her the story of “The Little Prince”, whom he supposedly encountered in the Sahara after crash-landing.
As you can tell, this does something a bit different than the book. They took a cue from The Lorax and had a wraparound where a kid is told the story of the source materiel. I was slightly mixed on how that one does it, so how does this far?
It’s…mixed. In the sense that some parts are very well done, while some are not done that great. Starting with the little girl’s side, it can do a fine job of pushing the moral and making it more relatable to kids.
But other times it can be used to make the message as preachy as possibly. The scenes with her mother really drive home the point a bit too much. Her scenes work better when she’s with the aviator, as the charm really shines there.
The stuff with the mother isn’t really resolve the best. Despite a stretched out 3rd act (oh boy, we’ll get to that) the ending is a bit abrupt, with the mother not quite developing in the way she should have. We can just assume she learned her lesson, I guess.
The film is at it’s best when connected to the book, either though the guy telling it or the scenes lifted from it. Little Prince is a children’s story, and they near perfectly capture that feeling it with it being heartfelt, simple, but strange and quirky.
There the message feels more natural, and the goal is more fully realized. The way they mix in these two stories can work sometimes, and be wonky other times. Then we have the 3rd act. Oh boy.
This is a bit dvisise and I can not blame them. I won’t spoil it here, but the writers take things in an odd direction. It has a place on a thematic level, and I get what they were going for. Some elements of it work and could have worked quite well.
But in execution, it’s very jarring and strange. They don’t explain exactly how this happen, or even if it’s happening. When things wrap up, it’s almost like the prior events didn’t’ even happen.
And of course, it causes the rushed ending I mentioned. Oh, and it pushes the message even further. I love this type of message most of the time (i’ts the whole 16 Wishes thing again) but here it can go overboard.
Overall, the writing is certainly mixed. When it’s taken from the book, it’s charming and engaging ,but when it’s something these writers came up with, it can be messy, even if it’s well meaning.
The weak bits are by no means bad, just a bit sloppy. But even with that, the writing manages to be solid enough.
Yep, this is back already. I had to put this aside because it ties further into how conflicted I am. Usually enjoyment will refer to humor and how I was entertained. But here it refers to personal investment and…heart.
Yeah, it’s that kind of movie. When connected to the story like I said, it goes from charming to really heartwarming. It’s another hard to explain, the main connect with the girl and the aviator is done quite well, and causes some nice moments I enjoyed.
The story itself is delightful too, with the message being it’s strongest there because it feels like a charming story instead of just a moral being shoved down our throats. While I wouldn’t say there are tear jerker scenes, some bits come close, and of course they are related to the prince and the aviator.
As you can guess, my enjoyment only went down in the 3rd act. Once the story truly got started, I kept engaging even when the mom popped back in. There are fun moments in this section, but it more confused me than anything else.
It does sadly take away from my enjoyment, but the stuff they do well makes me want to be nice. While it stumbles slightly, my enjoyment is mostly high with the charm and emotion put into it.
I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but with this cast works best when it’s the character releated to the book, rather than the ones made for the film. Starting with a little girl named…uh…little girl. Did David Lubar write this? Anyway, she’s voiced by the chick from Return of Lilly D.
She is kind of bland, I think it works as she is the one who has to learn the big lesson. As a way to teach it, she works fine and is likable enough despite not being too complex. Really, the problem with her is in it the writing more than anything.
I’m not as kind to the mother, voiced by Racheal McAdams. To be fair, they attempt to make her nice-ish but in the end she’s just there to really push the message by forcing her daughter to be orderly to get into a prestigious school.
The writing issue I mentioned with her doesn’t help either. So yeah, she’s the weak link. The character that works the best is The Aviator, voiced by Jeff Bridges.
As the storyteller, he works because his relationship with the girl is engaging and he does a good job of getting me engrossed into the story itself. He’s pretty solid.
The character of the story itself are simple but work in that children’s book way. The Little Prince, voiced by the director’s daughter, is charming with his curiosity and the journey he goes through.
The Fox, voiced by James Franco, and The Rose, make for good companions and his relationship with them provides the best parts of the film. The other characters who exist are either small, or in the 3rd act so I can’t go into them.
All I can say is that the 3rd act one’s just make the moral more anvilious and one gives Albert Brooks his third voice role this year. Meh on them.
Overall, like everything else, the characters connected to the story are charming enough, but the others don’t do it as much for me. They can work in bits, and aren’t bad, but that’s about. Still, the ones that work do make the cast solid.
I’m slightly conflicted. When it’s at it’s best, The Little Prince is damn near great with the solid animation combining two styles, and how charming and heartfelt it is when it focuses on the core story and it’s message, with some good characters.
But it stumbles slightly with the new elements, as they can make the message too obvious and the third act is just confusing and too out there. The weak parts are by no means awful, and they have a reason to be there, but they slow the film down sometimes.
At some points, I found the film to be great, but with all of these elements together, it’s just pretty good. But even with that, this is a strong family film I think most people will enjoy. If you think you can look past the flaws and focus on the strong parts, I would recommend you check it out.
Depending on how you feel about the book. If you haven’t’ read it, you will be more open if you have, you will be more critical if you want a straight adaptation. I could look past the problems, but not everyone will.
Even with some wonky parts, I very much enjoyed this film and think it’s worth a look if you have Netflix. I am mixed on the grade, so I will just cheat a bit. Sorry. So yeah, a bit mixed but mostly good film.
OVERALL: B/B+. Sorry. Subject to change, of course.
Made up for my own more even more mixed feelings on the film I reviewed before this. Check in next week for a much discussed animated film…for the adults. Oh boy.