The problems of adapting The Little Prince for the screen are twofold. Not only is it one of the most beloved stories in all of literature, it’s not even really a story – it’s more a series of vignettes about the oddness of adults and the perils of growing up. Thankfully, director Mark Osborne understands this, and has ingeniously made a film that’s as much about The Little Prince’s place in our collective psyche as it is about the little boy from Asteroid B-612.
The Prince’s adventures are recounted in a wonderfully juvenile style of stop-motion, crafted as if from papier-maché, that looks like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s watercolour illustrations have leapt to life on the screen. The real meat of the story, meanwhile, takes place in a present day presented in cutting-edge (but no less gorgeous) CGI; it’s here that a little girl pushed towards being a grownup makes a friend in the now-elderly Aviator (voiced by Mackenzie Foy and a perfectly cast Jeff Bridges respectively).
There are stumbles here and there, as adaptation and source material don’t entirely gel. The cast is absolutely stuffed with talent, but their lines – translated almost too faithfully from the original French – often hit the ear a little strangely. The final act, which contains an utterly heartbreaking twist on the original characters, can’t resist becoming an action-packed jamboree at its climax. But they’re fleeting issues, and when it’s firing on all cylinders the film rivals anything Disney or Pixar have made in recent years.
Younger audiences may find The Little Prince difficult to sit through, but it is not really for them: it’s for all those grownups who forgot how to be children. Utterly beautiful and faithful to its source material without being slavish, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better animated film this year.
CAST: Jeff Bridges, Mackenzie Foy, Rachel McAdams, Riley Osborne, Marion Cotillard, James Franco, Albert Brooks
DIRECTOR: Mark Osborne
WRITERS: Irena Brignull and Bob Perischetti (screenplay), Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (novella)
SYNOPSIS: A little girl lives in a very grown-up world with her mother, who tries to prepare her for it. Her neighbor, the Aviator, introduces the girl to an extraordinary world where anything is possible, the world of The Little Prince.