THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY – I’m probably not going to be very popular by saying this, but I’m not that big of a fan of Japanese Animation. There are only a few movies I like (TEKKONKINKREET is the only one I can think of at the moment), and the only series I like are Speed Racer and Pokemon. Though I think they’re beautiful, I find Miyazaki’s films (SPIRITED AWAY, PONYO) to be indulgent in weird things for the sake of being weird. There are good stories in those movies, but I think they spend far too much time on incoherent subplots.
This latest entry from Studio Ghibli is based on the classic children’s story, The Borrowers. Sean, a very sick and weak young boy. moves into a country cottage with his Aunt. His mother used to tell him stories about little people who live within the walls of houses “borrowing” insignificant things (to humans) like one cube of sugar or a sewing needle. He will soon discover that his mother’s tales were true. Arrietty is a pre-teen borrower who is just beginning to learn how to go out and find things for the family by her father. She is told never to trust a human, but Arrietty is intrigued by Sean when she is accidentally seen on her first night out with her father. Sean becomes enamoured by Arrietty, wanting to help her, but her family is told to never see him again. Sean and Arrietty form a friendship, but when the maid at the cottage discovers Sean’s secret, Arrietty and her family become in grave danger.
This was a very welcome change of pace for a children’s film. Instead of loud, obnoxious characters screaming pop culture references, we get quiet endearing characters who enchant every scene. The pacing of the movie is perfect. It’s nice and slow (which could be troublesome for kids who love farting Nickelodeon cartoons), but has a real sense of imagination and wonderment. The viewer discovers this magical world slowly, reveling in each subtle detail. I love how Arrietty’s home is underneath bricks and contains pieces of an old dollhouse. It’s clever how a single sugar cube from the humans fills the family sugar jar. Because of the leisurely pace, I was able to take in the characters and genuinely care about them.
I have always loved how Japanese Animation looks, but I can never find a story that I really care for. Because this is just a straight forward telling of a classic book (there’s no goofy subplots giving a dirty stink spirit a bath for 20 minutes), for once I felt like I could really appreciate the animation, because I cared about the story. It really drew me in. I know my daughter will love this movie, and any kid who loves to read and has a terrific imagination will eat this up. If your kid would rather watch something like Alvin and Chipmunks over something like Labyrinth, than they might have a hard time with this. For me, I was pleasantly surprised by how charming and comforting this was. Wide Release. Rating:
Also opening this weekend:
THIS MEANS WAR – Reese Witherspoon falls for secret agents Tom Hardy and Chris Pine. The action subplot is sloppy and poorly executed, the comedy is on the same level as a mediocre sitcom and the romances don’t work because the characters are unlikable. I do think Reese Witherspoon gives the occasional glimpse of comic timing, but this movie is flat and dull. Wide Release. Rating:
GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE – Surprise! Surprise! This wasn’t screened for critics. I hated the first one, but am curious to see this since it’s directed by the CRANK dudes.. Unfortunately, I am broke. So if I don’t see a press screening, I can’t review it. Wide Release.
THIN ICE – Wasn’t given a screener. At The Lagoon.
DECLARATION OF WAR – Wasn’t given a screener. At The Lagoon.
MARGARET – Didn’t get a chance to see it. At St. Anthony Main