‘Borrowers’- inspired movie is a sweet tale for the family

“THE SECRET WORLD OF AR­RI­ETTY” Hu­man boy Shawn (right, voice of Dav­id Hen­rie) is as­ton­ished when he vis­its the garden and dis­cov­ers Ar­ri­etty (voice of Bridgit Mend­ler) a tiny per­son who lives hid­den with her fam­ily un­der the floor­boards of the house where he’s stay­ing, in Dis­ney’s re­lease of the Stu­dio Ghib­li an­im­ated fea­ture, “The Secret World of Ar­ri­etty.” (Open­ing in theat­ers Feb. 17, 2012) © 2010 GND­H­D­DTW. All Rights Re­served.


The Secret World of Ar­ri­etty of­fers no 3-D, no flashy com­puter an­im­a­tion and no big-name voice act­ors. While the movie fea­tures nice hand-drawn an­im­a­tion that is visu­ally ap­peal­ing, with lush, bright col­ors, the true fo­cus is on the storytelling. The res­ult is a simple, easy-to-fol­low plot that is bound to hold the at­ten­tion of both chil­dren and adults.

The movie comes from Ja­pan’s Stu­dio Ghib­li, the cre­at­ors of Spir­ited Away and Ponyo. The movie was re­leased in Ja­pan in 2010 to much pop­ular­ity and has been up­dated with new voices and a re­writ­ten script. Visu­ally it looks like anime, though all the names of the char­ac­ters and the voices are Amer­ic­an. Though Ar­ri­etty is pro­duced and dis­trib­uted by Dis­ney here in the U.S., it’s not a big-time Pix­ar flick, so it likely will fly un­der the radar, sim­il­ar to Stu­dio Ghib­li’s oth­er pro­duc­tions here in the States.

Based on The Bor­row­ers chil­dren’s book series by Mary Norton, The Secret World of Ar­ri­etty tells the story of 14-year-old Ar­ri­etty (Bridgit Mend­ler) and her par­ents (Amy Poehler and Will Ar­nett), a fam­ily of 14-inch-tall people.

They call them­selves bor­row­ers be­cause they “bor­row” (it really is more like steal) scraps like sug­ar cubes and tis­sue from the hu­man be­ings whose house they live be­neath. Yes, the bor­row­ers have their own mini­ature home un­der the floor­boards of a reg­u­lar-size hu­man home (and it’s fun to see just how tiny they are and how they go about “bor­row­ing”). The num­ber-one rule for the bor­row­ers is to nev­er be seen by the “beans” be­cause it usu­ally ends up in the un­timely de­mise of the bor­row­er.

When the ail­ing teen­ager Shawn (Dav­id Hen­rie) comes to stay with his Aunt Jes­sica (Gracle Po­letti) in pre­par­a­tion for his up­com­ing heart sur­gery, he sees Ar­ri­etty scam­per­ing about on a couple of oc­ca­sions and wants to know more about her. Slowly, they build a heart­warm­ing secret friend­ship.

Un­for­tu­nately, it’s easy to see that their friend­ship is ba­sic­ally doomed from the start. In ad­di­tion to the in­sist­ence from Ar­ri­etty’s par­ents that hu­mans are bad news (and that chil­dren are even more dan­ger­ous than adults), she also faces a threat from Hara (Car­ol Bur­nett), the house­keep­er and Shawn’s care­taker. The prob­lem is that Hara is adam­ant about erad­ic­at­ing the little people — that is, if she can find sol­id proof they ac­tu­ally ex­ist. As the movie’s only vil­lain, Hara wasn’t the most com­pel­ling, or even very threat­en­ing (and Car­ol Bur­nett’s voice and line de­liv­ery were cer­tainly more funny than men­acing or sin­is­ter).

And speak­ing of voices, Ar­nett’s deep voice made for a good gruff but lov­ing fath­er, but un­for­tu­nately for his real-life wife Amy Poehler, her perky voice didn’t quite match the ho-hum look of the moth­er.

The Secret World of Ar­ri­etty is def­in­itely one of those “fun for the whole fam­ily” movies. It’s not the typ­ic­al boy-meets-girl-and-they-live-hap­pily-ever-after ro­mance, but it is a sweet story with hu­mor and heart. ••

Movie Grade: B+


You can reach at shorbrook@bsmphilly.com.

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