“Enchanting” is the watchword to describe Studio Ghibli’s new movie “The Secret World of Arrietty.” The Walt Disney-produced film is based off of Mary Norton’s novel “The Borrowers.” Made by the creators of “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle,” it is set in a locale where everything can be seen as magical and mesmerizing. The movie puts its trust in the viewer’s sense of imagination. “The Secret World of Arrietty” has impeccable animation that shows how beautiful and colorful the environments truly are. Its story brings a fresh face to the anime scene, not the typical cliché prince or princess story, but about the importance of friendship, family and survival. The movie’s adaptation of Norton’s story is suitable for all ages.
The main characters of the movie are the Borrowers, a race of little people who live under the house of human beings and borrow items to survive. They are not thieves per se, only taking a small amount of items that the humans would not notice like pins, tissue paper and sugar cubes. Borrowers do have one code to follow, namely to never be seen by a human being, or as the movie puts it “bean,” due to a misinterpretation of the language. The story follows Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler, TV’s “Good Luck Charlie”) a teenager itching to go on her first borrowing mission into the house above. Her father Pod, (Will Arnett, TV’s “Arrested Development”) believes that the survival of the race depends on Arrietty learning the ways of borrowing and distrusting the humans above. Arrietty’s mother, Homily (Amy Poehler, TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) is extremely worried about Arrietty traveling into the world of human “beans” and wants her to remain hidden under the house. On the day of Arrietty’s first borrowing, a 12-year-old “bean” named Shawn (David Henrie, TV’s “That’s So Raven”) comes to reside in his aunt’s house for his necessary heart surgery. He notices Arriety on her first borrowing by accident and while she is terrified, he is not afraid or menacing, but acts kindly toward her. Arrietty is torn, knowing that the Borrower code states that her kind is not to interact with humans, but she feels Shawn is non-threatening and that he is trying to gain her friendship. Arrietty’s world soon turns for the worse when Shawn’s housemaid, Hara (Carol Burnett, TV’s “Carol Burnett Show”) captures Homily and imprisons her in a jar, looking to prove the existence of the Borrowers. Realizing they need each other to save Homily, Shawn and Arrietty team up.
As mentioned prior, the animation in “The Secret of Arrietty” is idyllic and picturesque. The Borrower’s home is colorful and innovative, using human items for smaller purposes. Japanese stamps adorn the walls, as pictures and a leaky pipe over a tea cup serves as their tub. The characters also are nicely animated, but have some unusual features, such as big eyes to convey more emotion with the character. Outside the house shows the true artistic style of this elegant world. The vast green-scape of the garden is stunning, and the river flowing next to the house is a sight to behold. We see these aspects both through the “beans” and the Borrowers’ eyes, giving two different perspective of the same environment, such as the cat Niya, who is small and cute to humans, but a dangerous threat to the Borrowers. If you have ever watched one of Studio Ghibli’s movies, then you will know the level of animation is phenomenal and that an immense amount of time was spent making the world look as breathtaking as possible.
Though “The Secret World of Arrietty” is an animated movie with a G rating, it should not be regarded as just a children’s Disney movie. It brings a level of creativity and beauty to the screen that will engross most adults in the tale being told. This film is a great adaptation of the novel “The Borrowers” and viewers should not miss a chance to see a true artistic masterpiece in theaters.