The Secret World of Arrietty - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Secret World of Arrietty Reviews

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Super Reviewer
May 8, 2013
Super Reviewer
½ December 30, 2012
Japanese version of the Borrowers.
michael e.
Super Reviewer
November 8, 2011
The stories of the little people was originally conceived in the book series "The Borrowers" about a group of tiny people who would "Borrow" small things from people that they need. 50 years after the novel was written, Director Hayao Miyazaki decided to do his take on this story.

The story is about a young boy with medical problems named Shawn (David Henrie) being sent to his moms childhood house where she was told stories of small people who lived under the floor. He sees a strange creature when he is outside when he first arrives and thinks it looks like a little person. This creature ends up actually being a little person, a 14 year old girl named Arriety (Bridgit Mendler) who lives with her two parents (Will Arnett and Amy Poehler) who are borrowers who are small people who "Borrow things such as soap, cookies, and other small things that humans don't need when they disappear. Shawn ends up seeing Arriety on her first night of "Borrowing" and his curiosity was picked very far when she drops sugar in his room and he drops it off in the hole near her house. Arriety questioning this is told not to take the sugar because her father thinks its a trap but she sneaks out and ends up becoming friends with Shawn.

Like many of Ghiblis movies as I said before, usually get heavily Disney associated actors such as David Henrie from Wizards of Waverly Place and Moises Arias who was on Hannah Montana. But this movie also like Ghiblis other movies get moderately big actors or much older actors, such as in this film they got Carol Burnett, and Amy Poelher and Will Arnett. All of them do regular great jobs and one actor I think does the best job overall is surprisingly David Henrie as Shawn. He has such an innocent and monotone voice that it is impossible not to feel sorry for him when you find out about what is wrong with him and you feel horrible for all the things that are happening to him. He's both a sympathetic character and a very emotional character, and Henrie pulls this off flawlessly well. Bridget Mendler does a good job as Arriety, being sweet and pulls off the teenage girl getting to figure out the big world very well. Arnett and Poelher both do good as Arriety's parents and it shows due to these two being married in real life and you believe they do care for Arriety and are both believable as these two characters. Carol Burnett is shockingly not that memorable in this movie, she plays the character of Hara, a woman who takes care of Shawn but is obsessed with catching the little people. Maybe its because the character is really not developed that well, but Burnett doesn't really have much to work with with this character in the film, unlike the other elderly actresses that Miyazaki has chosen before such as Suzanne Pleshette in Spirited Away or Lauren Bacall in Howl's Moving Castle.

The animation, again like all of Miyazaki's other animated pictures is incredible, and for a movie with perspectives of smaller people to much larger people and animals leads to some very good eye candy to see in a Miyazaki movie. But other than that there isn't much really to talk about in terms of the animation.

One thing I will say about this movie is that is quite possibly one of the emotional films that I've seen in a while, and one of those reasons is because of the music, the music in this movie are brilliantly done and the film has little to none of it, but they know when to use it to the films advantage, and it works incredibly well when it is used. Using piano music about 80% of the time also helps.

Overall this is so far the best film that I've seen this year and it is definitely a wonderful film to go see, and it is one of the few movies to make me cry at the end, and it is quite possibly Studio Ghiblis most well told story out of all their films. My only problem I have with this movie is that the film does have a somewhat slow pace for a animated movie especially for a 90 minute animated film, but everything is all done extremely well and it is definitely one of Ghiblis best.

Review originally written 2/26/12
Super Reviewer
August 22, 2012
While not entirely a Miyazaki film, he is only credited as the co-writer here, it definitely carries some of his signature themes and would nestle up well with the other Ghibli films that you have on your shelf.

It focuses on the plight of Arrietty, a young woman who is one in a long line of little people known as "borrowers", as she timidly navigates her way through this big, and mean big, scary world. Along the way she befriends a sickly human boy named Sho, who borrowers are supposed to be very leery of. and together they form an unlikely kinship that gives them each the fortitude to fight for their very survival. Having the film centered around a very little girl isn't only just a fun way to tell a story, it also cleverly elaborates on the fears of being young and making your own stamp on this world. There are just so many potential dangers out there that finding your place in it can be quite a daunting task.

Unfortunately for adults like Haru, a maid hellbent on discovering these little people. many adults no longer desire to embrace the magical nature of the world around them. She only wants to exploit it to defend her own sanity in the eyes of her peers.

However, other then a clever way to tell a coming of age story, this film really lacked a spark. It lacked vitality. The story at times felt like it was moving at a snail's pace and I wished that director Hiromasa Yonebayashi would have spent a little more time on fleshing out either Arrietty or Sho. Focusing on both of them seemed to shortchange any chance of really getting me involved in these character's lives.

Another problem that I had with the film, aside from the fact that they call themselves "borrowers" even though it is clear they have no intention of returning the products they STEAL, was the music. I have a feeling that during its conversion to the English language, subtlety got lost in translation. The music is often so on the nose tonally and lyrically that it was almost comical. When someone is sad, the music quickly sweeps in with some bad Lifetime Network score. I'm not necessarily blaming the filmmakers on this one, but someone along the line really blew it.

It is starting to get redundant in my reviews, but seriously the animation is astounding. It is especially impressive here as this film features a great deal of action. The action is accompanied by an excellent sound design. As the film frequently changes perspectives from the little people to the full sized human brings, so does the sound and it is a really smart and exciting touch.

So while not the most groundbreaking film, like all Ghibli, it is smart, visually breath-taking, and completely worth your time.
Super Reviewer
August 21, 2012
Tender sweet story, engaging characters, gracefully paced, harmonious score, and gorgeous animation. Another quality effort from Studio Ghibli.
Super Reviewer
January 21, 2012
Studio Gibli always makes the best animation.
Movie Monster
Super Reviewer
June 25, 2012
The Secret World of Arrietty was an animated movie I was really looking forward to seeing. As some of you may know, I am a big fan of Studio Ghibli. Due to my schedule and the film's performance here in the States, I didn't have time to see the film on the big screen. Luckily, on my last day of school, my school rented a nearby theater and we were treated to a private Blu-Ray screening of The Secret World of Arrietty. How awesome is that? I don't think this is a Studio Ghibli masterpiece but it is a beautifully animated and moving feature film.

The story is about a family of Borrowers. Borrowers are little people who live underneath the floorboards and "borrow" little things from humans such as sugar cubes or sewing needles in order to survive. Borrowers try their best to be invisible from humans. A young Borrower named Arrietty is spotted by a human boy named Sean and it puts her family in peril. Although Sean wants to start a friendship with her, Arrietty must do what it takes to protect her family. The plot is pretty simple and it is executed very well.

The film is an adaptation of Mary Norton's novel, The Borrowers. I've read it before and I don't remember it much so I won't be comparing the film to the novel. The guys at Studio Ghibli are amazing storytellers and they brought this world to life beautifully. The world in this film is very fun to watch. I loved seeing the Borrowers use the things they find. For example, they use sewing needles as swords, earrings as grappling hooks, you get it. It's pretty cute. The artwork in this film is dazzling. I loved how detailed the Borrowers' home was and the outdoor scenes were just wow. They looked beautiful. When it comes to animation, Studio Ghibli never fails.

Despite not being the director, Hayao Miyazaki penned the script. He obviously wrote it in Japanese and I saw the English dub so I can't critique the original script. The script they wrote for American audiences was very well written. There were a lot of funny moments and lot of emotional ones. The voice acting was pretty good. Arrietty is played by Bridgit Mendler and she did a good job. She gave the character her personality. She was spunky and heartfelt. David Henrie does a good job as Sean. The character goes through a lot in the film and Henrie's voice acting shows it. Enough with the Disney Channel stars. Let's go over the A-listers. Will Arnett does the voice of Arrietty's father. In my opinion, it sounded like he was doing an impression of Kevin Conroy's Batman. Arrietty's mother is played Will Arnett's wife, Amy Poehler. She also did a good job. She brought humor and compassion to her character. I think the one who did the best was Carol Burnett as Hara. She stole the show and was very funny. The film doesn't feature the most amazing voice acting I've ever heard and the dubbing looked a little off in some parts but it was overall a well done job.

I definitely agree with the RT consensus. The movie is free from family-friendly clatter. It's good to see a traditionally animated film be released in a time where most animated films are all CG and loaded with pop culture references. The audience I went to see this movie with seemed to be taking the film pretty seriously. They were mostly quiet and seem to be absorbing the movie's story and atmosphere. There were some giggles here and there but there was something that Hara said that made the audience laugh out loud. The ending of this movie is pretty emotional and I believe that I did shed one tiny tear. If not, then I was pretty close to crying. The song at the end, "Summertime" by Bridgit Mendler, was a cute little tune about friendship that warmed my heart. The Secret World of Arriety is another charming, heartfelt, and entertaining film from Studio Ghibli. I don't think it's as good as Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro but I still enjoyed it. The last line of the film also wraps up the film perfectly. A great tale of family and friendship and a must-see for those who enjoy quality animated films.

"Sometimes it's best to not go looking for danger."
Super Reviewer
February 18, 2012
If you need further proof as to why computer generated animation can never replace the beauty and charm of the classic two-dimensional, hand crafted kind; see "The Secret World of Arrietty." Studio Ghibli's latest is simple, sweet, and heartwarming fun that will enamor both adults and children alike. From it's fully realized characters, to it's soothing, breezy tone; and all the way up to it's bittersweet conclusion... "Arrietty" never misses a beat.
Super Reviewer
½ February 10, 2012
There's a elegance in the narrative's simplicity. Part of the story focuses on the missions that these "borrowers" go on to obtain articles like sugar and tissue for the family to use. The point of view of the little people is perfectly captured. There's beauty in how these characters accomplish their objectives. Arrietty's father's use of double stick tape and mittens to scale a wall is quaintly beautiful. But where is the excitement? Not a whole lot happens. There's a storyline involving a sickly 12 year old boy named Shawn who comes to stay at the place while awaiting heart surgery. His friendship with Arrietty is a dramatic subplot and although it's poignant, it never develops into anything particularly exciting. Then there's Hara, an older female caretaker of the home. She provides some conflict, but she ends up becoming more of a nuisance than an actual threat. Nevertheless this is a welcome addition to the Studio Ghibli cannon. The details are what makes this so captivating. Despite the somewhat listless plot, The Secret World of Arrietty is an enchanting delight.
Super Reviewer
April 13, 2012
A sickly boy makes friends with one of the two-inch tall "borrowers" who live underneath the floors and live by foraging for crumbs in human households. Very solid and sweet adaptation of a minor children's classic; should delight kids and nostalgic adults.
Super Reviewer
March 15, 2012
Heart-achingly tender and sweet. Thoughtful art direction includes clever and charming details that made me smile throughout. For example, hanging on the house walls of the 4-inch-tall family are framed stamps as decorative paintings - stamps that are tarnished with wavy post-mark ink, reinforcing the principled scavenging history of our Borrowers and inviting us to imagine their previous adventures.
paul o.
Super Reviewer
March 4, 2012
If only I didn't have Will Arnett and Amy Pohler have serious voice roles...
Nate Z.
Super Reviewer
February 25, 2012
This adaptation of Mary Norton's classic book, The Borrowers, is colorful, imaginative, and the antithesis of what has become the modern-day family film. It's less antic with its pacing, it has a more somber mood, and the ending is essentially anticlimactic. While commendable on one hand, The Secret World of Arrietty is also a minor work under the tutelage of the brilliant Hayao Miyazaki. Like other Miyazaki works, the film immerses you into an imaginative world where all the details fit. The story itself within that world is a bit low-key. Arrietty is a 13-year-old tiny person, a Borrower, living with her mother and father inside a human being's home (they refer to people phonetically as "beans"). Her friendship with one of those "beans," a boy named Shawn, is pleasant and gradual, as she feels she cannot trust the enormous human. I kept waiting for something larger and more significant to happen, but it didn't. The story feels too slight to justify being the introduction, and likely final, chapter of these characters. The world of Arrietty is beautiful to watch but after a while you're just watching pretty pictures.

Nate's Grade: B
Super Reviewer
February 16, 2012
another excellent ghibli film and proof miyazaki doesnt need to direct for this studio for their films to be great. the story was touching and well told, the characters interesting, and as usual the animation was wonderful.
Super Reviewer
October 11, 2011
Another instance of Disney's distribution contributing to worldwide release of a hand drawn masterpiece, Arrietty is a beautiful film, based on more than it's tender animation. The story is based on the book "The Borrowers" which has already been adapted to live action version films, most notably one starring John Goodman and Jim Broadbent. The English version of this Japanese treasure features the vocal talents of some hard hitting celebrities, including legendary Carol Burnett and the married comedy couple Amy Poehler and Will Arnett. Everyone is so wonderfully cast in this film, and beside that they are directed splendidly in their vocal performances by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. They would have to be to pull off some very subtle and yet so well dubbed dialogue. The animation is good, just as you would expect for a film about small people living in a large person's house. The best aspect of the Borrower's world is seeing them use everyday items as stairs, pulleys, grappling hooks, and other clever inventions. That spectrum of invention, survival, and family is always a prevalent theme in children's books and films, working well in this film as well as coupling with the grandiose size of everything, including cubes of sugar, facial tissue having to be pulled by two people, and the many secret passages behind light switches and paneling in the walls. That aspect I found magical and intricate, yet there's something off about this story as well. It feels like the story is being jammed together to accommodate an hour and a half runtime. Instead of really focusing on the plight of the family this looks more towards the history of the Borrowers, the mythology of the people, and weirdly enough death. The child of the house has an unexplained heart condition, and is inadvertently abandoned by his mother. He speaks calmly of the afterlife and how no one should fear death. I and the people with me were really surprised that they viewed death in that way in a children's film. I'm sure it unsettled a few kids. Either way, it really was a spirited, gratuitous film for all ages.
Super Reviewer
February 18, 2012
"The Secret World of Arriety" is an anime tale about borrowers who live in the floorboards of peoples homes. Following the live action classic film, "The Borrowers," this film is both for the children and adults to enjoy. They take what they needs from the true-life-sized people in order to stay alive and live everyday lives. This film boasts from amazing animation, a story that will have anyone applauding, and characters that you will actually feel emotions for. In every way, this film is fantastic, but I can't help but feel that the freshness of the premise is lost, due to the origins story that came before it. Still, it tells the material perfectly. This film is great!
Super Reviewer
December 31, 2011
A cure needed for such loud and obnoxious 3D/CGI movies that come out every other week. Its simply beautiful to look at it, and while it has a strong story, it shies away from the great masterpiece it could of been.
Super Reviewer
½ September 18, 2011
A "smaller-scale" Ghibli movie than what we're used to, but a good one. The Secret World of Arrietty is the story of a family of "borrowers" a tiny race of people who live within the homes of ordinary humans and who are supposed to stay hidden from them at all times.

It's visually as beautiful as you'd expect from Ghibli, with even simple backgrounds looking as lovely as a painting. Instead of the fantastical lands of most Ghibli films like Spirited Away or Howl's Moving Castle, The Secret World of Arrietty is set in an ordinary home. But the simple beauty of everything and seeing the lovingly-drawn detail in everyday items from the view of smaller eyes makes this one of the more memorable Ghibli movies from a visual standpoint, in my opinion.

As for the story, it's simple and effective, and deals with nothing more than the human occupants of a home, including a young boy with a heart condition, and the family of borrowers that also lives there unknown. Arrietty herself, the daughter of the family of tiny people, continues the tradition of fantastic female characters that comes from Studio Ghibli.

This isn't an action-packed movie with a grand climax or anything like that, but I found it satisfying and pleasantly watchable. Arrietty left me with good feelings and avoided being heavy-handed with messages as some Ghibli movies can tend to do. I liked it a lot (better than Howl's Moving Castle and Tales from Earthsea, if not quite as much as Ponyo), and I'll be happily seeing it again at the theater when it comes out in the U.S.
Super Reviewer
July 31, 2011
This is a more gentle, less challenging offering from Studio Ghibli's oeuvre, with a thin storyline obviously streched to fill a feature-lenght film. It still has all the delicacy and visual richness characteristic of the studio's best work, and it is always incredible to see a refreshingly traditionally animated film amid the current CG craze.
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