Title: The Little Prince
Country: UK, USA
Genre: Family, Fantasy, Musical
Director: Stanley Donen
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Alan Jay Lerner
Cinematography: Christopher Challis
Music: Frederick Loewe
After ORLANDO (1992), here is another film adaptation of a novel which is regarded as difficult to bring onto the silver screen, LE PETIT PRINCE by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the main concern is the book is rather tiny, but the director is the over-the-hill Stanley Donen (SINGING IN THE RAIN 1952 and SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS 1954), so it is par for the course that it is a musical picture suitable for a more general family audience.
First of all, Steven Warner is an ideally choice to play the little prince, a cutie-pie with curly blonde-hair who is able to recite verbose lines with ease and proper cadence, conspicuously challenges the terse facts of life-on-earth with his guileless questions and unaffected intuition. Richard Kiley is the pilot, aka. the author’s avatar, counterbalances Warner’s prodigious debut with a weary gravitas. The most exhilarating show-piece nevertheless is Bob Fosse’s SNAKE IN THE GRASS dance routine, anticipated a George Michael and Michael Jackson amalgam, he might not present too much venom of the snake, but it is graphically entertaining and trend-setting at that time. The über-talented Gene Wilder is agile and playful as the fox awaits to be tamed by the little prince and Donna McKechnie is sultry and tantalising as the doted rose, quite surprising for a kid-friendly flick.
The montages of a woman superimposed onto a flower marks the effort from the visual technique department to recreate the extraterrestrial otherworldliness in a modest budget and to visualise little prince’s interstellar journey with cartoon doves carrying him around. DP Christopher Challis distinctively deploys the low-angle shots and the fish-eye shots in the film to magnify the wackiness of the story, also the wonderful desert scenery can satiate one’s fastidious eyes.
Overall, this live-action movie is dotted with interesting music numbers to dampen the tautology of its text, and meanwhile it adequately disseminates its source’s philosophical gist, after 40 years, one must admire it does’t age too badly and it is also a bold musical, nominated for two Oscars (BEST ORIGINAL SONG and ORIGINAL SCORE). Finally, let’s also look forward to an animation adaptation next year, from Mark Osborne, the man who co-directs the incredibly pleasing KUNG FU PANDA (2008).