Movie Review: The Secret World of Arrietty

Recently, I was contacted by Disney, wanting to know if I’d like to attend an advance screening of their new animated feature “The Secret World of Arrietty” in New York City.

As a long-time fan of Mary Norton’s “The Borrowers” book, as well as being pretty keen on Studio Ghibli (the orginators of this Japanimation film, as well as another Hayao Miyazaki classic: “My Neighbor Totoro”), I was pretty enthusiastic as I could get (while still recovering from that neck injury that had me on hiatus until recently).

So off I went on my mommy adventure!  (Thankfully my husband was willing to watch the twins, as 4 yrs old was still a little young for them, despite the “G” rating – they have a tendency to shriek their enthusiasm, which isn’t exactly conducive to other audience members.)

When I got to the AMC Empire 25 theatre on 42nd Street, my blogger invitation got me a seat in the BEST row, right smack in the middle of the theatre.  Perfect for optimum viewing! (Thanks Disney!)

As the film started, I was amused to see the landscape was emphatically Japanese!  This was a bit nostalgic for me, as I lived in Japan for 3 years after I got married.

I soon became immersed in the story of an unlikely friendship between two vastly different worlds – Arrietty the Borrower, a 14-yr old girl of miniature size, and Shawn, a 12-yr old human boy, who’s come to stay in his Aunt’s house as he awaits a heart operation.

These two lonely children are drawn to each other, despite their differences in size and lifestyle – proving once again that friendship, like love,  is a universal concept that transcends all barriers and obstacles.

And the level of detail in the animation was stunning!  American animation is getting pretty good – Disney’s last animated feature, “The Princess & The Frog” did an amazing job of bringing old-style New Orleans to “life”, but in “The Secret World of Arrietty,” every nick in the wood furniture, every mildew-patinaed wall, is lovingly done with such care, making it that much easier for us to immerse ourselves in the hidden world of the Borrowers.

I enjoyed the characters, and I was particularly impressed by the Borrower father, Pod, voiced by Will Arnett.  A bit of the strong-but-silent type, he nonetheless conveys how much he cares about his family.

The Borrower mom, Homily, voiced by Amy Poehler, was a bit on the ditzy side, which I wasn’t too fond of, as it takes away from her maternal authority when she cautions her daughter to be wary of befriending “Beans” (The Borrower word for human beings.)

Other than that, the only other quibble I had with the movie as a parent was the scene that had Shawn, the human boy, clambering around on a rooftop.  (Wouldn’t want any kids trying to emulate THAT stunt!)

The movie is pure delight for children – even the ladybugs, pillbugs and grasshoppers got “oo”s and “ahh”s from the younger members of the audience.  Like them, I also wished I could live in that miniaturized world, fraught as it is with dangers that wouldn’t faze a “Bean” normally.

And despite my wishing with all my heart that there could be a “And they all lived happily ever after without a care in the world” ending, the future is unknown as the Borrower family sets off on their next exciting adventure.  I hope Disney and Studio Ghibli have a sequel planned!

I highly recommend this movie, and can’t wait until it comes out on DVD so my twin 4yr old girls can see it and shriek with joy to their hearts’ content, but suggest that parents are present for children younger than 9 or so for the first viewing at least.

Synopsis

Residing quietly beneath the floorboards are little people who live undetected in a secret world to be discovered, where the smallest may stand tallest of all. Arrietty, a tiny, but tenacious 14-year-old, lives with her parents in the recesses of a suburban garden home, unbeknownst to the homeowner and her housekeeper. Like all little people, Arrietty (AIR-ee-ett-ee) remains hidden from view, except during occasional covert ventures beyond the floorboards to “borrow” scrap supplies like sugar cubes from her human hosts. But when 12-year-old Shawn, a human boy who comes to stay in the home, discovers his mysterious housemate one evening, a secret friendship blossoms. If discovered, their relationship could drive Arrietty’s family from the home and straight into danger.

In Theaters

  • February 17, 2012

MPAA Rating

 G

Genres

 Action/Adventure, Family, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Animated, Foreign, Adaptation

Distributors

 Walt Disney Studios Distribution

Run Time

 1 hour 20 minutes

 

**Disclaimer:  I received a free advance screening pass to see the movie.  Travel was at my own expense.  The opinions expressed in this review are my own and are not influenced in any way.

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One thought on “Movie Review: The Secret World of Arrietty

  1. Not a great fan of animated films. However, your description of the detail was impressive. It is amazing what is being done since the days of Mickey Mouse in “Steamboat Willie”.

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