Review: The Secret World of Arrietty
PLOT: Arrietty is a Borrower. The Borrowers are a species of tiny, 10cm tall people, who hide in homes, borrowing the supplies they need to survive. If they are ever seen by human eyes- they have to flee. When Arrietty is caught by a sickly boy named Shawn, whos staying at his aunts country home while awaiting a heart operation- she befriends the boy, even though antics of his nosey housekeeper may endanger her family.
REVIEW: THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY is the latest offering from Studio Ghibli, and the brainchild of animator Hayao Miyazaki, widely considered the greatest talent currently working in animation. My exposure to Miyazakis output is pretty limited, as I havent seen any of his films- despite their unanimous acclaim. ARRIETTY (which he didnt direct) is my first exposure to the Ghibli universe, and I quite liked my first taste.
ARRIETTY is actually based on the same series of books that gave us the 1998 British comedy THE BORROWERS, which starred Jim Broadbent and John Goodman. ARRIETTY is a far less manic film, with it really being a thoughtful story about the unlikely friendship that blooms between the two lonely teens at its core. Arrietty is all alone with her parents, with The Borrowers thought to be a nearly extinct species. Meanwhile, in his own way, Shawn is just as isolated, with his heart condition leading to his being treated with kid gloves by his only companions, his thoughtful aunt, and her nosy, crazy housekeeper- voiced by Carol Burnett of all people.
Unlike most American animated films, ARRIETTY is a quiet, slowly paced film- more concerned with emotion, and atmosphere than anything else. The animation style is traditional, and a beautiful alternative to the CG animated films that dominate the market place. Its really a charming piece of work, although I would have preferred to see the original Japanese version than the American dub, which includes a few celebrity voices- including Burnett, and real-life couple Amy Poehler and Will Arnett as Arriettys parents.
As her protective, heroic father, I thought Arnett did a very subtle, reserved job- which really suits Miyazakis approach, although Poehler is a bit zanier. That said- the way her character is animated suggests that her approach is faithful to the original intents of the filmmakers, so I suppose that cant be chalked up as a fault of the American dubbers.
In the two leads, we get two unknowns- eschewing the gimmicky voice castings most studios seem to go for these days. This anonymity is a plus to a film like this as some teeny-bopper pop star in the lead would have been extremely distracting, and in poor taste considering the artful approach Miyazaki takes.
All in all, I quite enjoyed my first outing into the Miyazaki/ Ghibili universe, and Im certainly open to catching up with some of their more acclaimed titles, such as SPIRITED AWAY and PRINCESS MONOKE. If youre a fan of their output, Im sure ARRIETTY will be a treat, but even if youre somewhat ignorant of their work, its still a trip well worth taking. Its rare to see a childrens film as thoughtful as this, and its a breath of fresh air.