The Secret World of Arrietty Reviews
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
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.
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."
Nate's Grade: B
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.