In a cold world marked with much violence and hatred, Mark Osborne’s heartfelt animated adaptation of the beloved children’s book The Little Prince is exactly what we all need. The film was released quietly on Netflix on Friday, as the American distributor balked at the last moment, deciding not to release it into US theaters.
It is a shame, as the film has made over $96 million dollars worldwide and is a hit with everyone who sees it, gaining a 93% “freshness” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. When asked about why the film was dropped, Osborne is confused himself and said, “Grown-ups are very, very odd” (a quote from the book and movie).
The movie stays true to the beloved book, while setting it in a modern context. At the start we are introduced to a Little Girl (Mackenzie Foy), whose mother (Rachel McAdams) is intent on making her daughter a “Life Plan” that focuses on all that is “essential.”
The two characters live in a world where everything is gray, methodical, calculated and joyless. The houses look more like jail cells than livable homes. Every other character we meet is similarly focused on one thing: that which is “essential.” In other words, life is more of a “business” to be run than an adventure to live.
However, the Little Girl’s world is thrown upside down when she meets an old man next door (Jeff Bridges), who introduces her to a story about his encounter with a “Little Prince.”
Osborne expertly weaves in the actual story of the “Little Prince” into the conversations the Little Girl has with the old man. As a result, she is immersed into another world that speaks against “matters of consequence.” She is taught through the story that, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
This revelation ends up being a distraction, taking her away from the “Life Plan” her mother laid out for her. The film then reaches a mid-point, where the book is expressed in reality and the Little Girl discovers a city where many of the characters she heard of come to life. It ends with a beautiful scene where her mother begins to understand the beauty and wonder of the world and stops focusing solely on the “Life Plan” that is stifling the childhood of the Little Girl.
The beauty of the movie is that it is not simply a retelling of the children’s book, but a modern application of it. Osborne forces us to look in the mirror and examine our own world, applying the wisdom of the book to see if we are looking at the world with the eyes of our heart, or with the eyes of industry.
There are some great additions to the story that highlight the “strange” nature of modern adults. For example, when the Little Girl enters a faraway city dominated by business, she is almost arrested for simply being a child. In the “matters of consequence” children are treated as “nonessential” and should be quickly matured to become machines of efficiency. Children are seen as a threat to the adults and the Little Girl should not be there. In a world dominated by contraception and abortion, it is easy to see how our culture agrees with this sentiment and avoids children at all costs. In the modern world’s eyes they are a hindrance to success and can stifle the career of an individual.
“The Little Prince” has a stellar cast, including Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, James Franco, and Ricky Gervais to name a few. They all deliver excellent performances giving an appropriate weight and depth to the animated film.
The movie is a heart-warming diversion and should be watched by everyone. It does the book justice and helps us reflect on what we choose to call “essential” in our lives. “The Little Prince” reminds us that, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” We may think that our moneybags or material items are the most essential things in life, but the fox would greatly disagree. What is “invisible” is much more important.
It is hoped that after a successful Netflix run, it will be brought to more audiences with a DVD/Blu-Ray release in the future.