We’re in the shaggiest stretch of the dog days of summer, and the theaters are full of tent poles. Suicide Squad has bounded into theaters, ready to make all the money. (I’ll be posting something about that movie come Monday.) Jason Bourne and Star Trek Beyond will mop up the leavings. If you’re still trying to catch up on your summertime blockbusters, Finding Dory, The Legend of Tarzan and Ghostbusters are still on plenty of screens.
But if you’re looking for something different in a new movie—something that’s funny, sweet, thoughtful and maybe a little sad—you might want to flip on the TV instead.
The Little Prince rolled out on Netflix today, coinciding with a very small theatrical release in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Its journey to the screen was almost as strange and perilous as that of the titular prince in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic children’s book. Folks in the United States nearly missed the opportunity to see the film at all.
It’s worth seeing.
Admittedly, it’s worth seeing in a different way than the book is worth reading. Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 story is a beautiful, lyrical, haunting rumination on life, death, childhood and meaning. The film, directed by Kung Fu Panda’s Mark Osborne, tries to capture the book’s dreamy, earnest poignancy while pairing it with a more contemporary, sometimes zany story of a little girl, her ambitious mother and the crazy aviator who lives next door. Those expecting to see a movie that truly captures the book’s wistful magic may walk away disappointed.
But the movie still works in a way that doesn’t demean or ruin the book. We see The Little Prince through the little girl’s eyes, and because we’re treated to her very personal reaction to the story (written by her grizzled next-door neighbor), we see how she’s changed by it—just as the book changed, or influenced, many of us.The movie The Little Prince isn’t just a story: It’s a story about how stories move us. How they shape us. How they can improve us in fundamental ways. And that message is made even more powerful when one considers how spiritual—how Christian, in many respects—The Little Prince can feel.
Some believe that The Little Prince can be read as a Christian allegory or myth. I wouldn’t go that far, and you don’t need to be Christian to feel the power endemic to the tale. But many of its prime messages point to faith and even Scripture. It talks about the importance of work, of time, of “taming” each other. It reminds us that, once a creature is tamed “you become responsible, forever.”
The movie—perhaps even more than the book—stresses the values of this world are not the things that should be valued. And one of the things it values is “wasted” time—time spent climbing trees or drinking imaginary tea with a friend. Times like these are shunned by people who seek “Matters of Consequence.” But The Little Prince tells us that these times are the ones that matter the most.
It points me back to 1 Corinthians 1:25: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” I imagine that God’s foolishness looks something like that of The Little Prince. No wonder the character is sometimes compared to Jesus.
The Little Prince tells us that, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” The movie emphasizes this well, giving us a little girl who struggles to believe in things she cannot see or touch or test, but grows to believe and trust in things unseen. To have faith.
“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe,” St. Augustine once said. And that reward, too, is illustrated beautifully in the movie.
Sometimes, when I feel myself getting too wrapped up in “Matters of Consequence,” I re-read The Little Prince. It’s just that sort of book. And this movie, while not the book’s equal, carries with it the same quirky, unapologetic sensibility of Saint-Exupéry’s story. Will it be regarded as a classic, too? It will for some. The Little Prince has that sort of pull, however he’s packaged.