Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Screenplay: Hayouo Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa (Based on the "Borrowers" series by Mary Norton)
Stars: Bridgit Mendler (Arrietty), Amy Poehler (Homily), Carol Burnett (Hara), Will Arnett (Pod), David Henrie (Shawn)
Mary Norton would be pleased with the final result here. The narrative from the ailing little boy in this movie is true-blue to the book as is the engaging connection we feel toward Arriety who embodies curiosity, gumption, and bravery at every turn. Arriety is the daughter of "Borrowers", a secret society of Lilliputian four inch sized people who live among us unaware. They are the only family of Borrowers left in a sprawling country home that this story takes us to. The little people liberally borrow from the household things we don't normally realize is missing until we are looking for them, items thought as misplaced, but they only borrow the things that they need to survive -- occasional sugar cubes, needles and pins, lengths of thread, match sticks, a ply of tissue... They are ingenious and resourceful. They mimic us ("Beings") by building their own replicate miniature homes within floorboards and travel freely behind walls. It is a mesmerizing theme; as I carefully watched, I noticed my eyes began to dart between viewing the movie and inspecting the mantle over my fireplace, and was unexpectedly filled with giddiness. I was as immediately snagged into this movie as I was reading the Mary Norton books as a child. The plot is as timeless now as it was back then.
My inner-child was completely captivated with this movie from the get-go.
No one does better animation than Atsushi Okui and his entire staff does in this movie and others, and kudos out too for the subliminal sound engineers who flawlessly bring everything in this experience alive. When it rains and thunders outside, we not only feel it -- we are in the midst of it, a tag team here goes a long way with visual and sound. As Shawn relishes being in the garden, so are we too, the audience. The animation is beyond brilliant and captures in a jar what "Avatar" tried so hard to do with high tech and 3-D but, after viewing this masterful artwork, it still takes real human artists to illuminate the beauty of our world and universe. It just feels more real and it's a real work of beauty.
The voice overs are so on-spot yet I haven't seen the UK version yet; there is two versions. Outstanding is Carol Burnett and Amy Poehler -- their voices to characters is absolute perfection! As is David Henrie, be prepared for Shawns's vulnerable voice to break your heart in two for a while.
This movie is a pure and under-rated delight that was somehow slipped in between some pretty huge blockbusters. But it is available now on early release with On Demand and DVD and perhaps watching it at home is a better venue anyway. Your children will begin to scrutinize every nook and cranny of your home. And Arriety and Shawn become role models that Barbie and Justin Bieber can't light a match to. This movie is a must-see for every kid and adult, but be prepared as an adult too-- it tugs at the child in all of us.
And what is wrong with that?