The Secret World Of Arrietty (Japan 2010)

Rating: ****
Alternate Title: Arrietty The Borrower (Japanese title)
Review Date: 2/18/12
Screenplay: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: Bridgit Mendler, Amy Poehler, David Henrie, Will Arnett, Carol Burnett

An excellent adaptation of "The Borrowers" from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. The Borrowers are a race of tiny people between 4-6 inches tall who live anonymously in peoples' houses and periodically "borrow" things like sugar, soap, and tissue paper in order to survive. On the eve of her fourteenth birthday, Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler) goes out on her first borrowing mission. Unfortunately, things don't go as planned and she is spotted by a young boy named Shawn (David Henrie) who has just moved into the house. Shawn is a kind, but sickly boy who desperately wants to become friends with Arrietty, but the risk is too great and Arrietty's family decides to move out of the house. Adding more trouble is Shawn's caretaker, Hara (Carol Burnett), who wants to capture the little people for her own selfish needs. Arrietty finally teams up with Shawn to save her family, with bittersweet results.

Naturally, the film is absolutely gorgeous and bears the undeniable mark of Miyazaki's character designs and Studio Ghibli's craftsmanship. Like many of Studio Ghibli's films, the pacing is slow and thoughtful, focusing on negative space and the quiet beauty of nature. That said, it could not hold the interest of the younger kids in the audience, who quickly got bored and started running up and down the aisles unchecked. The animation is exquisite, and the attention to detail is superb. Arrietty is a wonderful character and delightful to behold. Bridgit Mendler brings Arrietty to life with an outstanding performance, but the rest of the cast falls a bit flat. I hope that the DVD includes the original Japanese audio. The threat of danger and tragedy is high, but everything plays out with a soft touch and a warm heart. Great stuff, but I cried all the way through it.

Notes On The Japanese Version: Not surprisingly, the Japanese version is superior in the voice acting department as the voices fit the characters more closely. Also, as I initially suspected, the Japanese version doesn't have the awkward and inappropriate happy ending voiceover that the American version does, which makes the film end on a more contemplative note.