60 Second Movie Review: The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)
March 9, 2012 5 Comments
If you were wondering whether Studio Ghibli’s exquisite animation might loose some of its quirk and nuance due to their association with Disney, then the answer provided by The Secret World of Arrietty is definitely maybe.
Released in the United States in February of 2012, Arrietty is an adaptation of Mary Norton’s series of books on the Borrowers, which Norton began in the 1950s. The Borrowers are tiny people who live among us by “borrowing” what they need from us giants. Yes, it’s a tale of recycling and reuse that was ahead of its time. And the Borrowers are a decent subject for Studio Ghibli, given their fondness for strong child leads and their talent for the fantastical.
Unfortunately, some of the characters in Arrietty are caricatures. I saw the film dubbed in English and found the strongest voice actors to be Amy Poehler (playing Arrietty’s mom Homily) and Carol Burnett (playing the caretaker Hara) but both of them played a version of the hysterical shrew.Then there was Will Arnett, an actor with terrific comic timing, who was apparently asked to play the father Pod as a stoic. With every sentence. And every word.
Don’t even get me started on the boy named Spiller! In a move that only George Lucas could love, there are apparently redskins living in the backyards of Japan. You know, the kind that eat crickets and speak like they’re playing Tonto. On the radio show. From the 1930s.
Allow me to pivot from the mean to the complimentary…if you can ignore the insipid music, the extended scenes without dialogue really do have a touch of the magical. The hand-drawn animation lends a human touch absent from even the best computer animation, and they have fun playing around with the sense of scale.
Arrietty also has a willingness to broach issues of sickness and death that are refreshing, but there’s an excess of schmaltz, and not enough variety in the adventure for me. I’s a painful for me to write that, as I absolutely adored Spirited Away (2001), Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), and Ponyo (2008). Of course, Hayao Miyazaki directed all three of those, and for this he only co-wrote the script.
Those earlier gems may have raised my expectations too high. Arrietty is still worth seeing if you’re forgiving and want some animation that isn’t standard issue Disney.
I give it one cube of sugar and one pin-you-can-use-as-a-sword in my Borrower-sized ratings scale.
The Secret World of Arrietty was released in the United States on February 17, 2012.
All of our movie reviews can be found here.
The L Magazine – Studio Ghibli, Disneyfied
Suddenleighanonymous – Movie Review: The Secret World of Arrietty
Last Film Standing – The Secret World of Arrietty Review
Genkinahito’s Blog – Arrietty