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The Little Prince is less a straight adaptation than a Hookish tribute

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To fans of all ages, a fair warning: This Little Prince is not the one you fondly remember. One of the biggest bestsellers in history—a book that’s been translated into more than 250 languages worldwide—would seem to require little tinkering, no “fixing.” But rather than loyally reproduce French author Antoine De Saint-Exupéry’s timeless novella, the makers of this animated adaptation have instead taken what could be called the Hookapproach, engineering a kind of years-later sequel and pivoting to a new preteen perspective. Perhaps this was the only way a children’s book of such unfashionable wit and soul could make the leap to modern screens—though they apparently didn’t go far enough for Paramount’s tastes, as the studio hastily, unceremoniously canceled its theatrical rollout in the States, almost a year after the film premiered at Cannes. (It begins streaming on Netflix tomorrow.)

Devotees may balk, but there’s some case to be made for the refashioning of Saint-Exupéry’s tender classic into a Pixarian, celebrity-voiced message movie. Earlier this summer, Steven Spielberg plummeted into the pitfall of fidelity with The BFG, which proved that the magic of a kid-lit touchstone can be lost in translation, even (or perhaps especially) when you remain faithful to its plotting. There was probably no replicating the intrinsically literary, welcomingly philosophical appeal of The Little Prince either. So maybe director Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda) and his screenwriters were on to something when they invented The Little Girl (Mackenzie Foy), a plucky window into the text. Daunted by the literal life plan constructed by her helicoptering single mom (Rachel McAdams), our adolescent heroine is drawn away from prep-school prep and into the wondrous memories of her wizened aviator neighbor (Jeff Bridges, basically playing The Giver again), an elderly version of the author-surrogate narrator from the original novella

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