Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Secret World of Arrietty (orig. Kari-gurashi no Arietti) [2010]

MPAA (G) CNS/USCCB (A-I) Michael Phillips (3 1/2 Stars) Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Michael Phillip's review -

The Secret World of Arrietty (orig. Kari-gurashi no Arietti) directed by Hiromasa Yonesbayahshi, screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa) is a lovely children's animated film voiced here in English, made by the famed Japanese Studio Ghibly and distributed in the United States by Disney based on the first of the children's book series The Borrowers (Amazon [1] [2]) by Mary Norton

It's about a family of tiny people called "borrowers" -- 14 year old Arrietty (voiced by Brigit Medler [US version] and Saoirie Ronan [UK version]) and her parents Pod (voiced by Will Arnett [US version] and Mark Strong [UK verison]) and Homily (voiced by Amy Poehler [US version] and Olivia Colman [UK version]) -- who live under the floorboards of houses and are responsible for taking (err... "borrrowing") little items that we find/discover that we've "lost" or "misplaced" in our homes.

Ideally the items that these really tiny little people take are things that we wouldn't particularly miss anyway. So on one of the early adventures in the story, Pod and Arriety set out on an expedition to "bring home a sugar cube."  On the way, Arrietty finds a clothes pin, which becomes her "sword."  It's all really, really cute.

The life of these little borrowers is, however, fraught with danger.  Relatively small animals like cats, crows and even mice that we find around our domestic confines appear really big to them, and these animals have been known to eat the borrowers that they catch.  Further, people don't seem to differentiate much between "borrowers" and other "household pests."  So when they spot a borrower, more often than not, they call an exterminator to deal with their pest problem.

That then sets the stage for the story here.  A little Japanese boy named Sho (in the US version named Shawn, voiced by David Henrie [US version] and Tom Holland [UK version]) awaiting a major surgery is sent to rest in the countryside by his great-aunt (voiced by Gracie Poletti [US Version], Phyllida Law [UK version].  (In the original books, the Boy was English sent by his great-aunt into the English countryside to recuperate from Rheumatic Fever that he contracted while in India).  The house is where his mother had grown-up.  And when he arrives, he spots one of the "borrowers."

He's all excited because his mother had told him about them.  The borrowers are terrified, however, in particular mother Hillary, because being spotted by the humans generally means "bad things will happen to them," and actually "children are often worse than the adults." (Presumably human children would treat them as they would bugs and other small creatures, that is, bring out the spy/magnifying glasses, put them in jars, while forgetting to feed them, etc...).

Actually, Sho's quite nice.  But the caretaker of the house Karin in the Japanese/UK versions, Hara in the US version (voiced by Carol Burnett [US version] and Geraldine McEvan [UK version]) wants to call the exterminator.  So much ensues ... but Sho, himself lonely and facing suffering turns out to be a good protector/friend to the frightened little borrowers.

The drawing in this film is just beautiful.  The garden scenes in particular are beautifully captured as are the (seemingly) huge dew/rain drops that adorn the blades of grass and the flowers every morning.  It makes one want to cry.

And the story reminded me a lot of a Czech children's classic Broučci (Fireflies) about a family of fireflies that came out in England, in English translation during the war years, 1942, some years before Mary Norton's The Borrowers (1952) was first published.  There are clear differences in the story but there are also similarities (the greatest of which being the portrayal of the world from the perspective of a really, really small anthropomorphic being -- similar to the "sugar-cube" episode described above in Arrietti, the fireflies in Broučci would drink wine out of a grape ... ;-).

Anyway, it wouldn't bother me at all if Mary Norton could was influenced or partly inspired by that Czech children's story.  I just want to note that the other story was also very, very cute and that probably stories like this (about "little people") are going to tend to be very, very nice.

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1 comment:

  1. Nice review. This is a traditionally beautiful Miyazaki film, both in imagery and scope, but I found the screenplay a bit haphazard in regard to Shaun's character. I appreciated the subtlety in building the character, but I didn't think his and Arrietty's balanced each other's like, say, Totoro and the little girls of My Neighbor Totoro. Still, a fine film. You can read my review here: http://cinemabeans.blogspot.com/2012/03/secret-world-of-arrietty-2010.html