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"The Secret World of Arrietty" will charm young and old alike

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Reel Mama: "The Secret World of Arrietty" will charm young and old alike

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"The Secret World of Arrietty" will charm young and old alike

Arrietty, one of a tiny race of beings called the Borrowers

If you are looking for a sweet and reflective film with refreshing and colorful hand-drawn animation to watch with your children this weekend, look no further than The Secret World of Arrietty. Parents frustrated by the run-of-the-mill PG kids’ fare with its innuendo, mildly offensive language, and edgy ‘tudes -- enough of wildlife and lovable classic cartoon characters in sunglasses already -- will be delighted to discover that this movie is absolutely appropriate for all ages.  It’s poetry -- a lovely visual haiku that will gently surprise young and old alike with its touching story of an unlikely friendship that grows between Arrietty, a tiny girl for whom a stick pin is like a mighty sword, and Shawn, a young human boy of normal size with a weak heart.  Arrietty is one of a tiny and disappearing race of people called the Borrowers, who survive by taking things from humans, the disappearance of which usually goes unnoticed by them, and live alongside the humans in the walls or the floorboards unbeknownst to them.  
Arrietty is fourteen as the story opens, and her coming of age enables her to accompany her father on an adventure to collect the human objects needed for their family’s survival.  The Borrowers make ingenious use of the objects collected from the human world.  An earring becomes a means to scale a curtain, for instance.  A screw becomes a walking stick, and the aforementioned stick pin takes on great importance in Arrietty’s adventures.  When she discovers the pin, it is her first “borrowed” object --the first object she discovers left behind by humans -- and she sticks it through the side of her dress like a sheathed sword. 
Trouble begins when Arrietty comes face-to-face with Shawn, who has been sent to stay with his aunt Jessica (Gracie Poletti) so that he can have the rest and tranquility he needs for his heart condition.  The law of the Borrower’s land is that if one of them is seen by a human, they have to move.  Humans are considered dangerous.  Arrietty’s father warns her that too many of the Borrowers have disappeared when humans’ curiosity got the best of them.  Arrietty doesn’t want to believe that of Shawn.  She is astonished and intrigued by the world of the humans, and she is as curious about Shawn as he is about her.  She soon discovers that far from wanting to hurt them, Shawn wants to give them a lifeline.
Arrietty is the voice of Bridgit Mendler, the darling of Disney TV who stars in shows such as Wizards of Waverly Place, and she brings just the right mix of sweetness and strength to the role.  Her voice is perfect when expressing her sense of amazement when entering the rooms of the humans for the first time.  David Henrie, also star of Wizards of Waverly Place and featured on How I Met Your Mother, has a pleasant and sweet voice that makes Shawn sympathetic.
It’s a film that takes its time, but the Japanese anime (a highly recognizable form of Japanese animation) is a breath of fresh air.  The story is suspenseful, and Amy Poehler as Arrietty’s mother Homily provides plenty of humor with her penchant for making mountains out of molehills (no easy task for a Borrower).  Carol Burnett is the meddlesome caretaker Hara.  The animation of Burnett’s character isn’t as lively as the comic legend’s persona would merit, but she does deliver the funniest lines in the film with her usual perfect comic timing.  Will Arnett is Arrietty’s father Pod, a role that doesn’t showcase his profound talent; nevertheless, his simple and stoic performance is right for the character.
Reel Mama’s rating: While the film does address some serious themes, including Shawn’s illness, I really feel that the movie can be enjoyed by all ages.  There is a scene in which a crow gets caught in a window chasing Arrietty, and then Hara hits it in a slapstick manner with the sole of her shoe, but this is the most disturbing scene in the movie.  

Based on the children’s book “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton.  Produced by Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation studio responsible for such acclaimed anime films as Spirited Away.  Directed by renowned animator Hiromasa Yonebayashi.


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