The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince in French) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is one of my most favorite children’s books of all time. I love it for its charming narrative that effortlessly incites the reader to reflect on life. Though it’s a children’s book, I was already in my senior year in high school when I first read it. Our English teacher then was very enthusiastic about this book, and she transferred her fondness for it towards my batchmates and me. Thus, up until now, The Little Prince has a special place in my high school batch’s collective heart.
That’s why I’m extremely disappointed of this animated film adaptation. By itself, The Little Prince is wholesome, entertaining, and heartwarming – it’s a good movie. Those who haven’t read the book will easily like the movie. But for someone like me who did, the movie is much lacking in comparison to the book. I’m not expecting it to be as rich as the book, but I never thought it’s going to be this subdued. It fails to express the story’s rich philosophical overtones emphatically.
I think the movie felt diluted because of the major plot revisions done. Instead of directly adapting the storyline of the book, the movie’s plot centers on an unnamed little girl (simply credited as “The Little Girl”) who’s in a rigorous study schedule set by her mother so that she can pass the entrance exam of a prestigious academy. The Little Girl becomes friends with their next door neighbor – an old, eccentric man who happens to be “The Aviator”, the narrator-character of The Little Prince book – and he tells her the story of “The Little Prince” – basically, an abridged version of the plot of the book.
But, oh boy, the movie’s story doesn’t end there. That’s only the first half of the movie. I won’t spoil the events of the second half here, but it involves The Little Girl looking for The Little Prince, who is now an amnesiac adult working as a janitor.
With the movie shifting back and forth between what was happening in the “real world” of The Little Girl and in “The Little Prince” narrative, no momentum can be built from these interruptions. The appeal and rich metaphors of the original story are lost. My most favorite quote from the book ("You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed") didn’t even make it on the film, but at least the book’s most popular quotable quote (“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”) did.
Now, I think I understand why the makers of this movie felt The Little Girl and the other additions are required in this adaptation. Maybe The Little Prince story can’t fit on a feature length movie, that’s why there was the need to pad it up. Or maybe they thought that the message of The Little Prince would go over the heads of its target audience, so there was a need to clearly illustrate its “real life” applications via the character arc of The Little Girl. But regardless of the intention, I still would have preferred an exact and complete adaptation of the book.
The animation is beautiful. I especially liked the delightful stop-motion style whenever the story shifts to “The Little Prince” narrative (I would have loved it more if the entire movie is animated that way). But those scenes are few and short.
Again, by itself, The Little Prince is a genuinely good movie. But it’s not a good movie adaptation of The Little Prince.