Arrietty (aka The Secret World of Arrietty) (review)

The Secret World of Arrietty

I saw The Secret World of Arrietty last year, in the U.K., where the title was the simpler Arrietty and the voice cast was British and Irish (Mark Strong, Saoirse Ronan). I was not overly thrilled with it. It’s entirely possible that the U.S. version, with a U.S. voice cast (Will Arnett, Bridgit Mendler) — which I have not seen — would make me feel differently, but it’s hard to see how. While perfectly pleasant and an entirely suitable option for anyone looking to take small children to the movies, it is a disappointingly minor entry in the annals of Studio Ghibli, the renowned Japanese animation studio. A flat take on Mary Norton’s novel The Borrowers [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.], about tiny humans who live secretly in symbiosis with normal-sized people, it pales next to Ghibli masterpieces such as Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro… partly because it fails to give any sort of Ghibli spin on a story that has been adapted to film so many times already. Hayao Miyazaki, the soul of Ghibli, did not direct (that’s down to Hiromasa Yonebayashi), but he did contribute to its screenplay, so the lack of a true Ghibli feel — or even a mildy Japanese vibe — is a mysterious letdown. The animation is lovely, and it’s always nice to see a story about an adventurous girl — here, teen borrower Arrietty Clock gets into trouble when her exploring reveals her to the human boy who lives above. But grownup fans of adventurous animation may well find their patience tried by something that feels entirely too familiar.

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