…no matter how old you are. Oh, and I suggest you bring a box of Kleenex with you.
For those of you who are not familiar with the 1943 book, you may want to get familiar with the story before you head to the theatres to see this. I won’t even try to sum up the actual (incredibly emotional) story, because in the first draft of this review, I tried to, and I was being completely unfair to Mr. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of the 1943 novella (I’d say it’s pretty short; you could get through it pretty quick before popping into the theatre to see it).
This film – directed by Kung Fu Panda co-director Mark Osborne – really is a movie about a story. It tells the tale of an incredibly grown up little girl (voiced by Mackenzie Foy) who lives with her mother (Rachel McAdams) in a very cookie cutter, essential world. When I say ‘essential,’ it means the people in it are slaves to their work; for all intents and purposes, they are essential to their jobs. After The Little Girl blows her opportunity to get into the prestigious Werth Academie (it’s funny; the film actually leaves the French writings in), she and her mother relocate to a home that’s closer to the school. The goal is to have the little girl study all summer so that the school will take her – according to her mother – “whether they like it or not.”
The youngster is pretty diligent in her summer studies, until her eccentric next-door neighbour, The Aviator (Jeff Bridges, who seriously needs to be nominated for an Annie Award for his performance) begins to distract her. As she warms up to him, he tells her his story of his encounter with The Little Prince (Riley Osborne), and what it did for him and his life.
I’d gone through a lot of work to avoid anything that would tell me about this movie before I saw it (it came out in Europe in October 2015), and it paid off. A little rough around the edges with parts of the overall story, but the gem of the film experience comes from the stop motion used to tell The Little Prince story. It’s not the whole retelling (for instance, when The Little Prince goes on his travels, he meets a number of characters – we don’t seem to have time to meet them all in the film, but there are nods to some of the omitted), however, it is a telling that takes you on the same kind of journey the book does. The contrast between The Little Prince’s story (stop motion) and the Little Girl’s computer animated world is beautiful and heartbreaking, and towards the end, the two meld together perfectly in a way that tugs at your emotions.
The casting is on point. Mackenzie Foy manages to walk the line between mature and youthful; McAdams as The Mother character means well, but can be a little scary – which works. Bridges as the Aviator was a perfect casting choice, and I am so glad he was on board for the film because I couldn’t imagine anyone else as The Aviator – he is The Aviator. Every character on the screen matters; there is not one character you are bored by. The Fox. The Rose. The Businessman. All of them are (heh) essential – all of them feel so organic.
And to tie it all together…Hans Zimmer’s score. Beautiful, dreamy, and – every once in a while, depressing, the music adds to the visual treat this film is.
One thing I must knock the movie for: it can get a little depressing. Like the book, the film explores the themes of death, loss and separation (to name a few). However, there is also hope in growing up, becoming a “wonderful grown up,” and never forgetting to live your life with a child-like curiosity.
You are probably wondering how this stacks up in comparison to Zootopia (you can read my review on Zootopia by clicking here) – I actually liked this better, but it doesn’t mean Zootopia was not great. Zootopia was fun and fresh, but so is this film. Where I think Zootopia has the edge is in two senses: financially and in timing. It has Disney dollars to back it up, and a lot of the stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination topics that film touches on gives it an edge. Comparing these two films is an apples to oranges effort, and there is no shame in enjoying both.
For the innovation, the life lessons, the talent involved, however? The Little Prince gets a five perfect aviators out of five from me.
Oh, and yes, I did cry. Lots.