“Growing up isn’t the problem; forgetting is.”
So says the Aviator to the Little Girl, one of the bits of wisdom he shares with her while telling the story of the Little Prince.
This Friday, August 5, The Little Prince will be available for streaming from Netflix. (The movie was previously released in theaters in various parts of the world, but the US distributor canceled it shortly before its release date, and Netflix picked up the distribution rights.) I was given early access to the film last week as part of the Netflix StreamTeam, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
The movie is beautiful and uses a combination of CGI animation and stop-motion animation. There are sections that are taken directly from the book, and those are done with a stop-motion animation that uses paper and paper clay, giving it a lovely texture. These are true to the original book, often narrated by the Aviator or the Little Prince, and the animation is very reminiscent of Saint-Exupery’s illustrations.
The framing story is done in CGI, with the Aviator as an old man—his ramshackle home is surrounded by rows and rows of identical, modern, boxy houses. A young girl and her mother move into the house next door so that the girl can attend the prestigious Werth Academy. The Mother has planned out the the Little Girl’s entire life down to the minute for the sake of efficiency and future success … but then the Aviator comes crashing into the Little Girl’s life, literally.
This part of the story is new and isn’t from the book, but when the Aviator gives the Little Girl pages from his story, we recognize the illustrations. It’s an interesting way to stay true to the book and yet bring something new to it.
The movie is certainly a critique on the Mother’s pursuit of responsibility and efficiency—at first, the Little Girl is a willing participant, because it’s all she knows. When she first enters the Aviator’s house, filled to the brim and totally disorganized, she sees it as a problem—but is quickly won over by the Aviator’s childlike perspective on life. The Little Prince, through the Aviator, teaches the Little Girl the importance of remembering what it’s like to be a kid—and that it’s important not to grow up too quickly.
Netflix gave us the chance to submit quotes from our own kids, bits of wisdom from the mouths of babes, so to speak. Our middle daughter had recently told my wife that “life is mostly just doing whatever you have to do to get to the next cookie,” which we thought was pretty true. Netflix turned it into the image at the top of this post, featuring the Business Man. (“Shelley” is a pseudonym they chose, since I usually don’t use my kids’ real first names.)
The one downside to the movie, I think, is that it does gloss over some of the dangers of being irresponsible and not growing up: the damage that the Aviator causes with his zany, carefree attitude is real, but it feels like the consequences are downplayed (or even painted as unfair). The Mother, although she’s raising a child on her own and working long hours to afford this house, is made out to be the bad guy—yes, the life plan is over the top and too ambitious, but it’s also not okay for the Little Girl to lie and sneak off to hang out with a strange old man without permission, right? It’s the same issue that I lamented in my Stack Overflow column about lessons in friendship: being messy and spontaneous is ideal, and being organized and responsible only leads to misery. The Aviator claims that “growing up isn’t the problem; forgetting is,” but it does seem that he isn’t just remembering childhood—he’s reliving it.
Despite the heavy-handed message, I really did enjoy watching the movie, and it is beautiful. And I have to admit that, as a dad, I can probably use the reminder from time to time that my kids are, well, kids. Sure, I want them to grow up to be wonderful adults—but they’re not grown yet. I love the way that the portions of the original book are incorporated into this new framing story. The voice acting is also fantastic, particularly Jeff Bridges as the Aviator; he’s perfect for the role.
The Little Prince is rated PG. We did watch with all three of our kids (12, 9, and 3), but there is a darker segment toward the last third of the movie that gets a little scarier and may be frightening for younger kids until it’s resolved. There’s no language, sex, or anything like that—just mostly some cartoon violence and some creepy adults yelling at kids.
Set aside some time with your family to watch The Little Prince, and keep on doing what you have to do to get to the next cookie.