Netflix brought a classic French tale of The Little Prince to their content with the recent adaption of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's most famous work in animated form. The issue with this adaptation is it is only somewhat accurate to the source material, and it attempts to modernize the material for today's audiences. The Little Prince has been receiving very good reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and elsewhere, but is it a sign that Hollywood has been altering and ruining our classics? I am going to have to say yes to this question, and I am going to give my review of The Little Prince, and discuss the possibilities of a sequel.
Not Faithful to the Source Material, and Yet It Is
If you read the summary of the film on Netflix, it reads: "He taught her about imagination, loneliness, and love. She'll always remember to see with her heart." When I read that description, I immediately said: "this is the story of The Little Prince?"
In case you haven't realized it, I am the guy who is always saying "the source material was better", but this is when I have read the source material. In this case, I read Le Petit Prince when I was in French class in high school, and the story is actually quite different.
The Story and Theme of The Little Prince, the book
The thing is that the film's storyline is very accurate to its source material, but the film's main storyline as described on Netflix is just a framing device for it. Allow me to explain: the book was about a man who crashes his plane in the desert, and he meets the little prince. The prince is from another planet, a small world that he eventually leaves after an estranged relationship with a rose. After exploring many worlds, he settles on Earth and meets the pilot, after meeting a fox and a snake. The aviator has to see the little prince die, or at least leave the world somehow.
As far as the theme of this book, it seems to be about how our childhood dies, and yet still remains a part of us, even though we may long for it. That is a big generalization, and someone of you might disagree with me. The book is undoubtedly full of symbolism, but can still be appreciated by a young audience, which is why the story is considered legendary by the French.
Differences in the Book and the Film
As you might have guessed, both the book and the film are an unusual story with completely unbelievable elements. Now, the way the film starts out is it shows a mother attempting to get her daughter into Werth Academy. By the way, the book is dedicated to Leon Werth, so this made-up academy for the film is an homage of some kind. It shows that the film respects the source material, which is a point in its favor.
Now, the mother is trying to prepare her daughter for the most successful future, at the expense of her daughter's childhood. This really feels like a modern story, rather than something done in 1943 (when the book was published), but it illustrates one of the book's main points. That is, adulthood is often boring, mundane, and lacks imagination. The book and film tell the story of the hat vs. the elephant swallowed by a boa constrictor, which sounds like a pretty true story on account of the book's original author.
Anyway, the film's action gets going as the daughter settles into a neighborhood that is gray and drab, where every house looks the same, like the song "Little Boxes". This is where the computer animation shines, and it reminds me of Mr. Incredible's boring job in The Incredibles. The mother and daughter have a neighbor who has a very old an unusual house, and this neighbor is an old man who is the aviator from the original book.
A New Little Prince Meets the Old
So, this is where it gets a little confusing. The daughter befriends the aviator, and then he tells the young girl about his adventures with The Little Prince. When the film goes into flashback mode, it also goes into a different style of animation as well. For the most part, these flashback scenes are accurate to the book.
The aviator finishes his stories about halfway through the film, so then the film has another hour of its new story. The daughter apparently doesn't like how the story ends with the little prince dying, so she unfriends the old man. Then, the aviator has some kind of health trouble and ends up in the hospital.
From there, the story gets even more unbelievable, and that is saying something even in new established connected universe that is now The Little Prince. The daughter finds the aviator's old plane, which has been fixed up so it can fly again. She then flies it into the stars, which have all gone missing. As it turns out, there is this planet that is literally all business, and it is some dark place that is really dystopian looking.
It is here where the daughter meets the little prince, who has all grown up. Only he is not a king, but a janitor in this terrifying adult world. The daughter is taken by the bad guy, and the little prince saves her. Together, they return to his world after freeing all the stars, and the prince somehow de-ages into a little boy.
Final Thoughts on The Little Prince Movie
The film ends on a real touching moment between the mother and daughter, and I can't help getting the same "feels" that come from watching Pixar movies. It would appear that Pixar has some competition, and I hope that it stays friendly. As I claimed in my review of Ghostbusters, most films are really good when they are trying to do something original, and not try and piggyback on something else. However, most films are constantly piggybacking on other old film's success in the form of reboots and sequels to guarantee even more new money.
The biggest problem that I have with this film is that it feels like something that Hollywood would do in America. It seems like we have seen Hollywood adapt children's books like those from Dr. Seuss before, but the problem is that most children's books are short, so more story gets put in. There was a complaint about The Killing Joke adaptation, even though it is an R-rated adult story.
In this case, the main story of The Little Prince was reduced to that of a flashback in this main story. The issue is that someone tried to modernize it with the tale of this daughter's relationship with this old aviator.
The really ironic thing about this is most parents would not want this type of relationship where the girl goes over to the old man's house to hear stories from him. I can't help but think that is creepy by today's values but not during the time when The Little Prince book was written.
The scenes where the daughter takes off on the plane and goes to this weird adult world kind of feels like something in the spirit of the book, but it just wouldn't be in it as described. It kind of has an influence that reminds me of The Matrix and even Dark City. This is where the framing device and main story goes kind of downhill, if not for the sweet ending.
The fact that it has the "third-act breakup" as well as a nice happy ending is proof that Hollywood's usual "magic" has been spilled on this adapation, and it isn't the best. However, this could have been a lot worse. In 1974, there was a musical version of The Little Prince created, and it has not passed the test of time. This animated version could stand for a generation.
The Little Prince Sequel?
I think the real winner of this film is the animation studio, who did a wonderful job, as good as Pixar. The end of the film leaves it open for more adventures between the aviator, mother, and daughter, so I don't see why not, specifically if the studio wants to make more money on the sequel.
My advice is to find some original story that can speak to this generation, and don't take some older story and try and incorporate it. The animation in The Little Prince is brilliant, and should be used to create something really new.