Incredibly popular children’s book The Little Prince gets a part-CGI, part-stop motion adaptation on Netflix in 2016, and Lee checks it out.
Another clever film cleverly defends itself from criticism with a wry look at criticism itself, this time under the guise of a children’s animated movie. The Little Prince makes bold cases against the adult mind and its insistence that everything must be useful; that everything must have its place and mean something. In the corner of ‘child-like’ openness and acceptance, (our case for), we follow an elderly aviator and a little girl who fight the system with creativity, storytelling and imagination. It’s all pretty neat stuff.
It’s certainly an interesting case to fight too, something of a modern day response to Plato’s Republic; a dialogue in which the pragmatic resolve to create a utopian city ultimately leads to a discussion on the banning of art (as imitation, which is just art) for its corruptive effects, this of course being hypocritically argued in what is a fictional dialogue. That in itself was a very clever work, one that opens up plenty of debate as surely The Little Prince will at some point in many film study classes by taking the opposite approach. So let’s start that trend by ignoring the entire point of the film and asking: are the lessons kids are being taught here any good?
For you see, the movie itself, for all its lecturing on the futility of pragmatism and on all things having meaning, does definitely have a message. So if it can break its own rules, we can ignore its rules entirely.
Objectively, the film gives little credence to the world of adults, and portrays almost every adult as pragmatic to a fault; only those in touch with their creativity, those who remember what it is to be a child, possess any real colour and life and happiness. These extremes work for the overall analogy of the film, but it’s still a pretty jaded and conceited worldview to just assume all adults are ignorant, child-neglecting workaholics. Which then asks: is this story even for children?
It seems that only adults are likely to take away the message of “don’t let your child grow up without creativity in their life” or “don’t forget to let your child be a child at some point”, since the movie pretty much sides with the notion that children will be creative and adventurous by default no matter how indoctrinated to routine and all that boring adult stuff. But will adults watch a cutesy story of a girl who eventually looks to leave the real world behind? Probably not; it’s much too cutesy.
So what’s the point then? Nothing really, we can suppose. Very clever, The Little Prince.
Besides philosophical and utilitarian debate, we can admit the movie is well animated, well voiced and pretty lively in both action and score. It’s magical and twinkling and just a little bit too twee but we shouldn’t hold much against it so long as we can have a little more of that gorgeous stop-motion animation. Plus, there’s some great stuff in here about the importance of others in our lives, and how to handle loss, though the film does chickens out a little from its promises.
Characters are memorable, even if the majority of them are pricks, and the wibbly-wobbly fairy-tale language of The Little Prince’s story makes for good juxtaposition with the girl and her mother, and good comparison for the girl and the old aviator. Plus, there are lots and lots of things to read into, which always makes for a good time, and while it can be a little scary for young kids that’s never stopped us from getting behind a good story before.
The plot holds up fine even if the film goes on too long, and it’s all pretty pleasant enough fare, but cleverness often drags these things down in estimation as, very often, they can sound either unsure or too cynical. In The Little Prince’s case, it’s firmly the latter, and while much of that cynicism is pointed in on itself, humility looks a little more convincing when worn by a beggar; not so much on a Prince.