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Thursday, August 4, 2016

On the Wonders of Youth, the Boundaries of Coming of Age, and THE LITTLE PRINCE

When I was a kid, I couldn't wait to grow up. I couldn't wait to escape the tyrannical rule of parenthood and the ever constraining boundaries of school life, and become an adult--so I could do anything I wanted, whenever I wanted, and however I pleased.

Then, I grew up, and I realized that that time that I so desperately wanted to run away from was the most liberating time of my life thus far. I learned the hard way that adulthood, what was once so precious and idealistic to me, had become an imprisonment of monotony, regulations, and limitations--some of my own pragmatic making and others that just come with the territory. But the worst part of it all is, as I continue to grow older, I forget to cherish the ability to wonder, uninhibited, which came easily to me as a child.

That's what's so special about THE LITTLE PRINCE. the new animated film debuting on Netflix and in theaters Friday, does more than remind us how fleeting childhood is; it gives us the power to sustain some of those very same feelings of hope, wonder, and opportunity that often dissipate as we get older. A little girl (voiced by MacKenzie Foy) has only one vital responsibility at this stage in her life: get into Werth Academie, a prestigious school for gifted kids trained for continued success through adulthood and studious, clock-watching desk careers. Her mom (voiced by Rachel McAdams) has it all figured out, as she's meticulously mapped out her daughter's journey for her and has it displayed on her wall so that she is never led astray.

It all sounds like a foolproof plan--enthusiastically approved by her young daughter--until the little girl's curiosity for her eccentric, very amateur aviator neighbor (voiced by Jeff Bridges) pulls her away from her designated duties. and opens her mind to the wondrous world of a little prince (voiced by Riley Osborne) who literally gets to reside on the moon, dream without limits, and meet several interesting characters along the way--including the aviator himself. Coincidentally, the story of the little prince is told through the illustrations and narration of the aviator himself, whose personal connection to the narrative keeps his spirit youthful, fun, and happy. And this is just the boost the little girl needs to help her appreciate the boundlessness of her own youth--despite how stressful it's been constructed to seem.

With THE LITTLE PRINCE, director Mark Osborne, along with screenwriters Irena Brignull (The Boxtrolls) and Bob Perischetti, have created a pretty solid case advocating for the equal importance of life experience with academic experience. Their protagonist, a young child taught to possess the ambition of someone well beyond her age, gave herself the freedom to finally immerse herself in the potential of life--enough to want to grasp it forever. There's an exuberance to film, even when the storytellers are highlighting the grey, uniformed walls of adulthood. The contrast between those scenes and the vibrancy of the little girl's extraordinary journey to follow in the footsteps of the aviator's own muse is nothing short of magical.

But what is perhaps most refreshing about THE LITTLE PRINCE is that, despite its title, it features a young girl flying a plane, Amelia Earhart-style, saving lives--one adult drone at a time--and coming of age on her own terms. We need more movies like this--for children and adults.

Rating: A

Watch the trailer:


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