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The Little Prince

Yeah, this kind of works–so, I’m going to give it a pass. The framing device narrative isn’t always successful, but I appreciated it as an inventive, new spin, on an old classic. I mean, it does sputter like an old bi-plane occasionally. But, wouldn’t you know it, “The Little Prince” always roars back to life just in time before hitting the ground. Go figure. It’s charming–and the stop motion animation is beautiful. This beloved children’s novella (by Antoine de Saint-Exupery), was adapted on film once before, over 40 years ago, as a live action musical. That approach brought mixed results, but I do recall seeing it in theaters for a grade school class trip. I remember it being haunting and sad. This version cheers it up a bit, plus makes it more child-friendly. So, parents–do what you will.

The classic story of “The Little Prince”, focuses on an aviator, who is forced to make an emergency landing in the desert. There, he encounters an odd, little boy, who claims to have descended from a tiny asteroid. Soon, he’s beguiling the pilot with outlandish tales of his journeys throughout the solar system. Along with his encounters with a snake, a fox, a king…and a rose. All of them, btw, embodied by actual performers (Bob Fosse, Gene Wilder, among others). This version, from animator Mark Osborne, gives that a wraparound story of a young girl (voiced by Mackenzie Foy) moving to a new town, and attending a prestigious school, spurred on by her ambitious, divorced mother (Rachel McAdams). Then, the little girl meets an elderly, retired-pilot neighbor (Jeff Bridges)–and her entire world changes.

“The Little Prince” premiered at Cannes, and this month was given a limited North American theatrical run, while simultaneously streaming on Netflix. Director Osborne has twice been nominated for Academy Awards for his animation work, mostly recently as the director of 2008’s “Kung Fu Panda”. Obviously, no slouch. And he brings a lot of exemplary craft, and loving homage to this ambitious project. Also, James Franco voices the Fox, Marion Cotillard the Rose, Benecio del Tor the Snake, and Albert Brooks the businessman. And Irena Brignull cowrote the screenplay. She co-penned “The Boxtrolls”. I really enjoyed “The Boxtrolls”.  There are other recognizable names lending their vocal chords too. It’s a talented team, and a lovely re-imagining. So, “The Little Prince” ain’t perfect, but it gets the job done.

Grade:  B

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