The Little Prince (Mark Osbourne, 2015): France
Review by Zachary T. Parker. Viewed at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, 2016.
The Little Prince is both the story of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s treasured novella of the same name and the journey of The Little Girl (Mackenzie Foy), a child with her entire life decided by her mother (Rachel McAdams), discovering the story. In the film, however, the story is written by The Aviator (Jeff Bridges) who folds the first page into a paper airplane and sends it through the Little Girl’s window, disrupting the perfect life created by her “Life Plan”; an insane board that projects every minute of every hour of every day for the rest of her fleeting childhood.
The Little Girl begins as almost a robotic figure, mirroring every movement of her mother and following her every instruction to a tee. In attempting to get into a private school, she screws up her answer to a question during her interview, closing the door on this venture until she and her mother move into a new neighborhood closer to the academy. This is where she meets the Aviator and begins her journey. At the beginning, she is dehumanized to a number rather than a name, beginning an existential striping of her person into another cog in the wheel of adulthood. The neighborhood around her, besides the house of the Aviator, is a series of box house, each looking exactly the same as the other. The cars all leave the houses at the same time each morning, headed down immaculate streets to their jobs for the day. This dystopian reality is accepted wholeheartedly by the Little Girl at the beginning of the film, speaking true, and speaking uncomfortably so, to our actual reality. This trend is carried throughout the film and contributes greatly to the core of what makes this animated film so different from others: It’s darkness.
Wherein most animated films may make an uncomfortable point to develop or gain sympathy for a character, they will quickly skirt past it. Osbourne, however, embraces the deep running discomforts of everyday life and wraps them into the narrative, eventually culminating into a part of the story that he describes as “Kafka for kids”. I could discuss the blending of CGI and stop motion, the wonderful dynamic of Foy and Bridges, the intracate weaving of a classic book into a film, but what made me truly enjoy this film was an honest portrayal of our fears and doubts, which separates The Little Prince from all the other animated films. As Osbourne states, this film is not specifically for kids but rather “for anyone who is, or once was, a child”.