The Borrower Arrietty (reviews - page 4)

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Seattle Times

17 February 2012

'The Secret World of Arrietty': a borrowed and beautiful anime tale

By Tom Keogh

MOVIE REVIEW 3.5 stars

The brilliant anime filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki has written and directed a number of dazzling stories about children uncovering hidden, fantastic worlds, including "My Neighbor Totoro," "Spirited Away" and "Ponyo."

Against backdrops ranging from pastoral to densely urban to wildly exotic, enchantment always meets frightful challenges in Miyazaki's stylish fables. Every inch of the screen fills with unexpected wonders from the master's imagination.

"The Secret World of Arrietty," a project pondered for four decades by Miyazaki, is a little different: It's borrowed, if you will.

A subdued yet frequently beautiful, contemporary adaptation of Mary Norton's 1953 novel "The Borrowers," this tale of 4-inch-tall people is coproduced and cowritten by Miyazaki and directed with strong feeling and stirring discovery by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, a longtime animator at Miyazaki's famed Studio Ghibli.

Yonebayashi is faithful to the studio's signature look and feel, but the jewel-like colors and painterly splendor of his environments are distinctively personal and presented with disarming modesty. They're there, all right, but with a certain reserve, melting into the action.

The director's tone and pacing are also his own: pensive and suited to a tale of characters mulling individual fates even as they form forbidden relationships.

Loosely based on Norton's book, Disney's English-dubbed version of "Arrietty" stars Bridgit Mendler as the title character, a young girl from a miniature family of "Borrowers" secretly dwelling in a house of full-size humans. Among the latter is Shawn (David Henrie), a lonely boy with a potentially fatal heart ailment. Despite the warnings of Arrietty's parents (Amy Poehler and Will Arnett) — who know the dangers of being found out by humans — she strikes up a friendship with Shawn, who risks his health to protect them all.

Miyazaki and Yonebayashi's "Arrietty" is focused on the extraordinary found in the ordinary, i.e., the world as perceived through the senses and perspective of Borrowers.

When the first drops of a spring rain strike stone steps, the moment is both meditative (for us) and violent (as it would be for tiny people). A trail of black ants, working in unison to dismantle a sugar cube, becomes a surreal marvel as witnessed by Arrietty.

Certainly it makes sense for little pre-readers to take in a dubbed work of Japanese-language anime. But it's always a good idea for anyone to check out subtitled prints of Ghibli films.

I've been surprised more than once by very different perceptions one can have of the same characters in dubbed and subtitled takes of Miyazaki's films. Michael Keaton's world-weary, Bogart-esque voice for the title character in the 1992 "Porco Rosso," for example, was pretty obvious, while Shuichiro Moriyama's original, gruff-but-lovable performance was more suitably, playfully ironic.

We won't entirely know "Arrietty" until the full experience is available in a subtitled format. But until then, this Disney release is a gem.

Tom Keogh:

The Telegraph (UK)

28 July 2011

Arrietty, review
Ravishingly colourful and textured, animation doesn’t get better than Arrietty.

By David Gritten

Hayao Miyazaki, the great Japanese animator, has often looked west for his story-telling inspiration. His towering achievement Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) was inspired by a British novel by Diana Wynne Jones, while Ponyo (2008) was loosely based on a Hans Christian Andersen fable. Miyazaki’s wondrous Studio Ghibli has now repeated the trick, borrowing from The Borrowers, the English children’s classic by Mary Norton.

Miyazaki did not direct Arrietty (that task fell to Hiromasa Yonebayashi) but co-wrote the screenplay; his stamp is all over it. Like many of his works – including Spirited Away (2001) – it features a resourceful heroine and stresses our proximity to nature’s beauty and occasional danger.

Arrietty is a girl of 13, one of the “little people” living secretly with her parents under the floors of an English-style country house. They survive by “borrowing” – scavenging food and finding ingenious uses for household objects dropped by its inhabitants. She forms a touching bond with a new visitor to the house – Sho, a delicate, handsome teenage boy resting before a heart operation. There isn’t much to the story, but some brilliant set-pieces make it unforgettable.

One is a minor earthquake, which literally shakes up the careful composition of Yonebayashi’s framing. A second, more trivial, hints equally at chaos – an errant crow flies at Sho’s bedroom window and crashes in, disrupting the house’s serenity.

But mostly, Arrietty is simply gorgeous, embracing the ravishing colour of garden flowers, wildly sprouting vines, the perfection of a raindrop on a leaf. Its heightened sense of beauty conveys Sho’s appreciation of his precarious existence. Children will enjoy the borrowers’ thrilling forays into the house in search of sustenance; adults can wallow in the exquisite detail of the interior and leafy surroundings. Animation simply doesn’t get any better than Ghibli’s ravishing creation: when you have this much talent, who needs 3D?

Total Film

27 July 2011

Beg, steal or Borrow this movie

By Simon Kinnear

Studio Ghibli borrows from English literature so often (Jonathan Swift, Lewis Carroll) that this animated take on Mary Norton’s children’s classic The Borrowers is a no-brainer.

The set-up, in which sickly schoolboy Shô discovers fantasy creatures in his new home, revisits territory long mined by Ghibli’s creative guru (and Arrietty co-screenwriter) Hayao Miyazaki, while Norton’s diminutive family of household scavengers have already been adapted into a BBC mini-series and a Hollywood comedy.

What’s remarkable, then, is how fresh this is. Miyazaki hands directorial duties to long-term animator Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who focuses firmly on the eponymous teen heroine, a novice Borrower beguiled by the ‘human beans’, inverting traditional Ghibli logic. Where Miyazaki gazes out upon a strange new universe, Arrietty looks in and finds everyday bric-a-brac just as wondrous.

The Borrowers are endlessly resourceful, at once artists who turn postage stamps into posters, and microscopic mountaineers who forge grappling hooks from earrings.

The accompanying story charms, a bucolic jaunt that barely breaks stride even during set-pieces involving a predatory crow or a suspicious housekeeper.

That said, Yonebayashi’s child-like delight is underscored with a pessimistic parable about the current financial crisis. The film’s biggest (off-screen) villain is the divorcee mother who abandons Shô to travel on business, whereas Arrietty’s parents are Daily Mail-friendly hunter/gatherer and homemaker.

But this is Ghibli, so it’s actually more of a gentle elegy for the endangered lifestyle of ‘little people’ everywhere – and as moving as anything this great studio has produced.


Released in Japanese and dubbed formats, Arrietty’s craft and charm will invite universal acclaim.

The Washington Post

17 February 2012

The Secret World of Arrietty (Karigurashi no Arietti - Critic's Pick
A tiny movie with outsize charms

By Amy Joyce

"The Secret World of Arrietty" isn't (gasp) in 3-D. It isn't Pixared-to-death or loud enough to blow the popcorn out of your 20-gallon bucket.

But this gorgeous little movie is sure to be beloved by your little people, who may discover what it means to find a magical beauty in the things we can't altogether see.

"Arrietty," based on Mary Norton's children's book series "The Borrowers," is the story of tiny people who live under floorboards and swipe what they need from the Beans (what they call humans) upstairs. A piece of delicious art, much like the other films from legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki ("Spirited Away," "Ponyo") and Studio Ghibli, it was the highest-grossing Japanese film in Japan in 2010 - despite its lack of Hollywood tricks.

Each frame is a gift. Flowing grasses, watercolor wildflowers twitching in the breeze, a burbling stream, the sound of raindrops as they make their first marks on the sidewalk. The images are just vivid enough to allow the audience to imagine the fragrance of a newly dampened sidewalk, rather than be pummeled over the head by a storm so real that there's no room to imagine anything. And among all of this beauty is a pretty little plot. There's not as much of an edge-of-the-seat factor as in some of Miyazaki's other films - or in most box office hits these days. But do audiences need to be, well, blown away? Can't they actually enjoy a relatively quiet movie?

Arrietty (voiced by Bridgit Mendler of Disney Channel's "Good Luck Charlie") is a 14-year-old Borrower who shows us from the first scene that she has pluck, sneaking through the grass midday, with a bay leaf as cover, and standing up to the fat cat that has been stalking her. She's eager to go along with her serious father (Will Arnett) on a nighttime expedition into the Beans' house to fetch a sugar cube and one tissue.

This is much to the dismay of her hysterical mother (voiced by Amy Poehler, who is haha hysterical as well), who tells Arrietty about cousins who have disappeared and her fears that her husband will be eaten by a cat.

Arrietty goes with her dad anyway but is spotted by sickly boy Shawn (David Henrie), who tries to befriend her. She's sure he means no harm, but once Borrowers have been seen, they must leave their home and find a new one. Arrietty is overcome with guilt and frustration.

There are misadventures along the way, including a run-in with the housekeeper, Hara (Carol Burnett reprising a bit of her Miss Hannigan traits), that show just how heroic our little heroine is. As in: smart, bring-your-daughter-to-this heroic.

The end isn't quite tied up in perfect sparkly pink bows, but is left slightly up to us and our atrophied imaginations. Remember what that feels like?

Exactly. Makes me want to sigh, too.

Upon leaving the theater, a girl of about 6 turned to her grandmother and said dreamily, "That.Was.The.Best.Movie.Ever."

And that sums up why this little movie is so very big.

Contains mild animated peril.

The Washington Times

16 February 2012

Movie Review: 'The Secret World of Arrietty'

By Adam Mazmadian

This import from Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli, which produced “Princess Mononoke” and “Ponyo,” has its roots in a well-known English children’s story. Based on “The Borrowers,” a series of books by Mary Norton, it tells the story of a family of tiny people living under the floorboards of a house who forage for their necessities on nightly adventures. They live under the constant threat of interaction with humans (called “beans,” as an abbreviation of “human beings”), whom they both rely on and mistrust.

Arrietty (voiced by Bridgit Mendler) is a young Borrower who is just old enough to go out on her first scavenging effort, called a “borrowing.” Right around this time, there is a new arrival. Young Shawn (David Henrie) has been sent to the family’s country house, set on an unpaved road away from the moderate bustle of a nearby suburb. Shawn is under orders to rest in advance of a risky but necessary heart operation, and the family’s longtime maid, Hara (Carol Burnett) is tasked with seeing to his needs. Sadly, Shawn’s parents are divorced, and his mother is too busy with her career to stay with him during this waiting period, so he is driven to the house by a favorite aunt.

Arrietty and Shawn meet on the night of her first borrowing. He spies her trying to pull out a single facial tissue from a box, and he is instantly smitten. He does his best to make contact with her, but her father Pod (Will Arnett) is strict and her mother, Homily (Amy Poehler), is paranoid about big people. The movie unspools in two directions. First, the family of Borrowers must prepare to move now that they know Shawn is aware of their presence. Second, housemaid Hara, who believes in the Borrowers, but is resentful of their existence, wants to root out and expel the family.

The youngest moviegoers will enjoy the simple but attractive characterizations. Arrietty is spunky, her father is wise, her mother is fearful, Shawn is fatalistic but goodhearted, and Hara is judgmental and interfering. There is a philosophical dimension to the interactions between Arrietty and Shawn. He’s grown to accept that his heart defect may claim his life, while Arrietty, though she faces a perilous road, is determined to survive. Shawn is ultimately inspired by Arrietty’s gumption, but their colloquy on the question of fate versus free will probably strike older children (and grownups) as a bit obvious.

The real joy here is the animation. Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi pays a lot of attention to matters of scale. It’s wonderful to watch Arrietty scamper across a swath of lawn, with a loping cat hot on her heels. The contrivances used by the family on their borrowings are a delight — including crampons made of Scotch tape used for scaling walls, and grappling hooks made from old earrings. The animators find a universe of possibility in this rustic Japanese house and its grounds, full of lush color, tiny creatures and unexpected dangers.

While adults and older children likely won’t be on tenterhooks waiting to see how the story comes out, “The Secret World of Arrietty” is a simple-hearted and gentle story for younger kids.


TITLE: “The Secret World of Arrietty”

CREDITS: Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa. Based on the children’s book “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton

RATING: G, but divorce and the inevitability of death receive frank treatment

RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes