Friday, February 24, 2012

The Secret World of Arrietty

Nothing will keep me away from a new movie by Studio Ghibli on opening weekend. Like Pixar, they've earned that trust. One after another, they have released movies with lush, beautifully animated, fully realized fantasy worlds, and relatable, human stories.

The newest Ghibli film, The Secret World of Arrietty, is a little different. Written by Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Arrietty takes our own daily home environment and resizes it into a vast, dangerous world full of adventure and peril.

Based on the classic series of children's novels The Borrowers, The Secret World of Arrietty is the story of Arrietty, a tiny girl who lives under the floorboards of a country house with her stern, protective father, and her jumpy, fearful mother. They are Borrowers, a secret race of bug-sized people who live off of the items that human beings, or Beans, as they call them, don't need or will never miss.

On her first Borrowing outing with her father, Arrietty is mistakenly seen by Sean, a sickly Bean boy her own age, staying at the country home with his aunts while awaiting a heart surgery. Sean has long been told of the little people in the floor by his mother, who never stopped believing in them.

As Sean reaches out to befriend Arrietty, her parents realize that they've been made, and knowing the two worlds can never meet, opt to pack up and leave before Arrietty's curiosity gets the best of them all. Meanwhile, they must contend with Sean's aunt, who has been trying to prove their existence for years, and is believed to be a bit off her rocker.

My favorite scenes were just watching the way the Borrowers navigated the human world. Arrietty's first Borrowing was a lot of fun, because we got to see the way they utilized strips of tape to scale tables, and old lost earrings as grappling hooks, and so on. I also really enjoyed the house cat. Ghibli always does great work when animating realistic animal behavior, and the cat has some really funny moments.

Though not my favorite of Studio Ghibli's films, Arrietty is still quite good. It drags on a little bit too long, but a lot of Hayao Miyazaki's films have a slower pace than American kids are used to. I think American kids and Japanese kids might have different attention spans. Or maybe the kids in our audience were just particularly squirmy.

I would recommend The Secret Life of Arrietty as a good movie for the whole family, though if your kid is impatient or the type that wants something noisier, you might want to just wait to show it to them on home video. Still, I don't have any kids, I just like movies. My wife and I saw it on our own and we both enjoyed it a great deal.

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