Friday, September 13, 2013

The Secret World of Arrietty Movie Review

There isn't a whole lot of anime that I can honestly say I enjoy. So when it is brought up while talking to fellow geeks, I have to talk about the movies made by Studio Ghibli. I haven't seen all of their movies, but the ones I have seen are incredible. Studio Ghibli is kind of like the Walt Disney of Japan in that the Japanese studio makes incredible animated feature films. In 2010, Studio Ghibli's sixteenth film, The Secret World of Arrietty, was released and I've just now got around to seeing it.
 Based on British writer Mary Norton's children's book The Borrowers, the film is about fourteen-year-old Arrietty Clock (Bridgit Mendler). She is a Borrower; four-inch-tall people who live anonymously within the walls of a human family's residence, borrowing simple items to make their home. Arrietty lives with her father Pod (Will Arnett) and mother Homily (Amy Poehler). Arrietty is excited to go on her first "borrowing" trip where she'll help Pod gather supplies from the larger house. The Clock family is nervous about the new twelve-year-old boy Shawn (David Henrie) who has moved in to the house recently. When Pod and Arrietty are seen  by Shawn they fear they may have to move to a safer home. When Shawn attempt to befriend Arrietty, he makes a mess of things and inadvertently draws the attention of the house's caretaker Haru (Carol Burnett), who has been suspicious of the existence of "little people" for years.
I've seen other versions of The Borrowers. There was a TV series starring Ian Holm, an action-based movie starring John Goodman, and a television released movie starring The Doctor Christopher Eccleston. The Secret World of Arrietty is probably the best version I've seen to date. There is a different set of voice actors for the Japanese, United Kingdom, and United States dubbing; I've listed the United States cast only because that's the one I happened to see.
The color and proportions are incredible!
As usual Studio Ghibli's art style was remarkable! It's visually lush and beautifully detailed. You could pause the move at just about any point and admire that one frame for all the detailed beauty and heart that went into it. I'm partly colorblind and even I thought the greens used to color the verdant grass was gorgeous. The colors are beautiful and the imagery is beautiful to see.
One of the amazing details in the animation was how realistic the physics were. To a tiny human, a portion of water, for example, will move differently. A Borrower would drink a drop of water instead of a eight ounces. Thus to Arrietty, a drop of water will loom and drip like syrup. The sounds of a ticking clock reverberates immensely, and something like tissue paper is large and stiff. Other versions of The Borrowers have tried to capture the difference that size would have on normal physics, but I don't think any of them has done it as remarkably well as this one. The camera work also helps illustrate the size difference. The scenes with the Borrowers use wide angles from low angles to capture the enormity of the house from their perspective. The animators are always very careful about being consistent with size when a borrower and a human are interacting; other versions aren't always so meticulous about that detail. It causes the difference in size to be more believable.
The movie moves a bit slower than I expected, but it is paced perfectly. The story unfolds gradually and progresses evenly. That's not to say there is no action or that it's a slow movie. Most other versions of The Borrowers are fast paced so that the kid viewers who have a presumably short attention span won't get bored. This results in an underdeveloped story that moves at a dizzying pace. It may bore some viewers under the age of four, but I think The Secret World of Arrietty is a great way to help young kids appreciate well made films that are not bombastically over-the-top and moves at a rushed paced.
The Secret World of Arrietty is an outstanding movie, as has been my experience with other Studio Ghibli films. It doesn't have the epic scale of Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke and the seemingly "kid-friendly" vibe may put off some adult viewers. Even if you are an adult I recommend watching this film. It's absolutely beautiful to behold and is impeccably paced and its drama is perfectly developed. It's also good to see an adventure movie with a strong female protagonist. I think The Secret World of Arrietty is worth owning on Blu-Ray and watching often.

Do you have a favorite Studio Ghibli movie? Which one is it and why? Comment below and tell me all about it!

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