I love animation, comics, cartoons, and all the fantastical bits we come to know in our childhood. I can’t let them go and I never want to. This movie hit all my sweet spots when it comes to the medium. It was structured well, gorgeous to look at, had great voice work, appropriate music, and an overall design that enhanced the message mightily. It’s not a straight adaptation of the book, but rather a story within a story. The main narrative involves a young girl named Violet (Mackenzie Foy) and her hyper-focused and business-like mother (Rachel McAdams). In order to get into the “right” school, they move into a new neighborhood next to a house that clearly violates the norms of the neighborhood. The entire world, in fact, reflects the regimented sensibilities of adults.
The occupant of the home next door turns out to be the Aviator (Jeff Bridges) from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’spopular novella, “The Little Prince.” Through him, in a series of what begin as flashbacks, we get a rendering of the original work (featuring the voices of James Franco, Marion Cotillard, Benicio del Toro, Paul Giamatti, Bud Court, Ricky Gervais, and Albert Brooks). All the more striking is the transition from the highly polished computer-animation to artistic and imaginative stop-motion animation during the Aviator’s narrative. Through him, the eponymous Little Prince is seen as a sort of young, cosmic, wandering being who provides both optimism and child-like curiosity, as well as sharp and insightful philosophy, transforming the Aviator’s life who, in turn, transforms his unnamed young neighbor’s life over the summer before school starts.
For me, the movie’s overall narrative embodied my overall personal struggle against the expectations of culture and society to maintain the interests and wonder of childhood. So many of the philosophical points of this film echo thoughts and sentiments of my own that the narrative moment where the girl has an adult situation forced on her, when all appears to be broken, I nearly couldn’t take it. Fortunately, the resolution of the film satisfied in a transformative and reasonable manner, very much to my liking. The elevation of imagination, embracing change without sacrificing childhood wonder, and bravery in facing the world with those memories, that experience. Very. Satisfying.
That this movie is the most successful, French animated film to date with profits over $30 million of its budget couldn’t find solid distribution in the United States is damning support of its particular narrative. It’s well done enough that any company wanting to make a dent in Disney and Pixar’s near-stranglehold on wonderful, animated movies should have picked this up and distributed it with vigor.
Thank the Sweet Mother Donut that Netflix took over the distribution and began airing it on August 5, just in time for me and my family to settle in and watch a brilliant movie.