Little Prince Review

little princeFor a while watching The Little Prince I was ready to come on here and be pretty harsh on it.  Until the first hour mark, the movie was honestly driving me crazy but then it somehow turned itself around and became a decent flick.  Usually the ending of films is where they really tank but not in this case.  I kind of wish it had been a short 45 minute special because really the first hour is just two characters talking a lot and telling you why what they are saying is so important.

SOME SPOILERS AHEAD!  (I couldn’t talk about some of my issues without spoiling because it lay within the story).

So let’s talk about that first hour. My big problem was way too much exposition.  At times it felt like a Shyamalan film there was so much talking and not showing!

The plot of the movie is a Little Girl is trained by her mother to keep a tightly planned study schedule.  Truly it seemed a little over-the-top it was so micromanaged.  I mean what kid would want to plan a play date for the next summer?  It strained credulity and made the Mother look really mean.

little prince 4The goal of the Mother is for Little Girl (that’s her name) to make it into a prestigious school called Werth Academy.  They even move just to be in the school boundaries.

little prince8However, Little Girl wants to explore and is drawn to an elderly neighbor known as The Aviator. He tells her about the Little Prince who had a rose that he loves and tries to protect.  As he tells the story we see it played out in beautiful animation that looks like stop motion.

little prince111The problem is not enough happens in the story to be compelling on its own so it becomes a lot of talking about dreams and bold living.  As pretty as it was I grew weary of it.

Then The Prince in the story dies for The Rose at the hour mark.  This causes Little Girl to become angry at The Aviator for the story and it ending so sadly.  She stays away but then he gets sick and she must fly The Aviator’s plane and find the Little Prince on his asteroid.  This is when the story starts going.  We actually see things happen to our lead character!

little prince123When the Little Girl gets to the asteroid, she finds a world where everyone has grown up- kind of an opposite Neverland.  The Little Prince has forgotten his past and has been turned into a workaholic adult.  He is ruled by a man called The Businessman who is hoarding all the stars to steal all the light and happiness from the world. Now this is a story!

little prince14Little Girl then must bring the Little Prince back to his planet and he gets some closure on his lost rose. Little Girl gets a reminder that she cannot grow up too soon.

little prince15When she reunites with her Mother they have a new understanding and she is allowed to be a child a little bit longer while still going to the prestigious school.

Once the action in the story started going I was entertained by the Little Prince, but almost like a fable, the metaphors are very heavy-handed. The Businessman clearly is meant to symbolize the Mother and her routine for Little Girl (they even have a similar chalkboard with tasks listed out), but I didn’t mind it.  I kind of wish the entire movie had started at that point because I really didn’t need the background on the Prince, The Rose, The Girl and The Mother.

Even in the boring sections there is a nice heart to the film, and I did feel attached to Little Girl and her struggles to be understood by her Mother. I just needed something more concrete to happen sooner to get the plot going. The first hour felt a little like reading a greeting card. Sure it looks nice and has a nice message but I needed more story!

The vocal performances are all wonderful, providing a real warmth to the sometimes one-note characters.  Mackenzie Foy (Little Girl), Jeff Bridges (The Aviator), Rachel McAdams (The Mother), Paul Rudd (Mr Prince) are great.  Marion Cotillard is heavily billed and I thought would have a big part but she is The Rose and only has a few lines.

little prince3The animation is stunning throughout The Little Prince and it is worth seeing for that reason alone.  And it does end with real heart that made me tear up a few times.  I just wish I could condense the first hour into 15 minutes! In some ways after that reminded me of Neverending Story in its messaging and tone.  Still, I can’t ignore an hour of tedious exposition.

Overall Grade- C+

Also why this movie took forever and a day to get to a US release is beyond me.  It was written in English originally so it didn’t need dubbing or subtitles.  Why the delay?  That was very annoying.

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Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants Review

miniscule posterI made a goal that I would see every animated film of 2014.  I thought with Song of the Sea I would have all 13.  Well, little did I know there were many more foreign and independent animated films still to see. So I will finish my goal and plan on at least seeing all the films submitted for academy consideration.  One on the list was actually a 2013 release in France but got a small American release in January 2014 (only 4 reviews on rotten tomatoes so it must have been in only LA) called Miniscule: Valley of the Lost Ants.   It’s too bad more people don’t know about it because it was a total delight.

Let me start off by saying this movie is so cute.  Evidently it is based off of a popular TV show in France created by Thomas Szabo and Helen Giraud. It tells the journey of an ant and a ladybug.  There is no dialogue or spoken words of any kind beyond the squeaking of insects but it is not needed.  It reminded me a lot of Wall-e in that respect.

The film is computer animation set on real life backgrounds of the South of France mountains (gorgeously shot).  At the start a human couple is eating a picnic when they must go to have a baby leaving their lunch behind including a box of sugar.  It is of course discovered by our ants and a ladybug who has a torn wing.  They then go on a journey to take the tin of sugar to the ant hill but encounter a lizard, frog and an army of red ants.  In a great scene they must navigate the box through a river with the red ants in a pop can following them.

Then the movie takes a turn and becomes a war drama that is quite compelling with the hoards of red ants gathering to attack the smaller black ants.

ant invasion

It is so creative how they use implements available to an ant to battle each other and I got into the story.  It’s amazing what you can do without any dialogue at all!  The ladybug then goes to get more matches and faces off with a spider who proves to actually be a friend.  The spider kind of looks like the coal creatures in Spirited Away but other than that it is an entirely original design.

spider miniscule

I won’t give it all away but it’s a delight.  Kids will love it especially small toddler age kids.  I remember my little sister would watch this movie that just followed farm animals around the farm over and over again.  We think little one’s need the dialogue but they don’t.  They don’t understand what most of the words mean so a story like this is actually quite perfect for them.

And I think parents will enjoy it too.  It’s charming with enough story to entertain adults (at least this adult).  It you are an adult that appreciates beautiful art it has that too (its not only cute). The photography is gorgeous.  Makes you want to go to France!

It could be a little bit shorter and a few dream sections drag, but overall I was highly entertained by Miniscule.  I wish more Americans could see it because I think it could do quite well with the right publicity. It was only $27 million to make which is amazing because it looks so good (when I think Legends of Oz had 3 times the budget it is hard to believe). With such a small budget it wouldn’t take much for it to be a success (and I think it already was in Europe but not sure).  Like I said, especially little children 5 and under will LOVE it.

I know I have some European readers so I am curious if any of you have seen/heard of Miniscule or the TV series by Giraud and Szabo?  I’d love to know what you think.

The music by Herve Lavandier is crucial to making the film work.  With no dialogue it gives you the right cue to the situation and creates mood and tension.

I’m certainly glad I saw it!  I only wish I had been able to see it in 3D.  That would have been so cool!  The lucky French!  I watched it here