Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 2, 2021)
Published in 1943, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince soon became a classic children’s book. Many adaptations in various forms of media followed, and these eventually led to a 2015 animated film.
A Little Girl (voiced by Mackenzie Foy) grows up without much of a childhood, as her mother (Rachel McAdams) prefers to shun “frivolous” things and focus on what the Girl will need as an adult. However, the Girl’s neighbor – an old man known as “The Aviator” (Jeff Bridges) – offers a diversion, as he peppers the Girl with whimsical tales of the Little Prince (Riley Osborne).
Before too long, this leads the Girl on a journey of self-discovery. As she gets drawn into the world of the Little Prince, the Girl finds herself pulled in different directions while she works her way through childhood.
When I saw that this version of Prince came from 2015 but didn’t make its Blu-ray debut until 2021, I entered “what’s up with that?” mode. I didn’t remember the film from 2015, but I assumed it must’ve come out and simply not received a BD issue until now for some odd reason.
As it happens, Prince never made it to movie screens – at least not in the US. Apparently Paramount intended to release the film in the States in 2016 but dropped it due to a monetary conflict.
At least that appears to have been the excuse. It’s also possible Paramount bailed because they thought the film wouldn’t do much business in the US.
As I watched Prince, that sense became most prominent in my thought patterns. While not a bad film, Prince never becomes better than mediocre, and it doesn’t seem like a flick that would’ve done much with American audiences.
Prince offers a joint US/French production, though the American side dominates the obvious aspects of the flick. We get an American director, American screenwriters, and mostly English-based actors.
However, in an odd twist, when the film presents printed matter, it’s in French. Among other items, both the “Prince” texts and the Girl’s books are in French, an odd form of discontinuity.
Perhaps I wouldn’t notice these issues if Prince engaged me more than it does. Unfortunately, the movie never captures the magic it needs to thrive.
Perhaps a sign of a deprived childhood, I never read the Prince story, so I can’t compare. I do know that the movie invents the tale of the Little Girl, though it appears to remain fairly faithful to the “Prince” parts of the experience.
Why not simply adapt Prince without the tacked-on Little Girl material? The Little Girl parts feel as contrived as they are.
Face it: the Little Girl exists solely so the filmmakers can add a Big Lesson about childhood. These elements bring nothing original or especially well-rendered, as the Girl’s tale lacks much impact.
Prince also fails to blend the two sides well. We don’t go from the Girl to the Prince in a smooth manner, and the pair often seem unrelated.
Overall, Prince manages to link the two narratives in a moderately efficient way, but this still feels like two separate movies awkwardly combined into one. If de Saint-Exupéry’s text is a classic, why not stick to it and leave out superfluous additions?
As discussed elsewhere on this disc, the filmmakers claim they added the Little Girl’s story because they didn’t want to make a literal version of the source. They opine that everyone takes something different from the novel and they didn’t want to put a strong stamp on the material because that might make these personal interpretations more difficult.
Fair enough, though that still feels like a copout of sorts. Many books can be viewed various ways – as can movies, so it’s not like the latter artform forces consumers to only take the experience one way. I would think Prince could do the same without the trite Little Girl material.
Prince boasts an excellent cast, as in addition to those I already named, we get talents like Paul Rudd, Benicio del Toro, Marion Cotillard, Albert Brooks, James Franco, Ricky Gervais and Paul Giamatti. Outside of maybe Gervais – who does what he can with limited screen time - none of them make much impact.
At its worst, The Little Prince remains inoffensive, and I can’t claim it turns into an unpleasant experience. It simply lacks the charm and creativity it requires to become something better than mediocre.
Footnote: a brief tag scene with the Little Girl appears during the end credits.