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“The Secret World of Arrietty” ~ A Little, Lush Tale of Friendship and Bravery

It's pretty much this lovely throughout the movie...

How clever. How lovely. How funny. How powerful. How where’s-my-hanky?

From the opening moments of “The Secret World of Arrietty,” I had the feeling we were watching something fresh and bold. It captured me and I know it captured my kids’ imaginations, too. I looked at them. They were transfixed. When you are 5, you can’t fake transfixed.

“The Secret World of Arrietty” is Disney’s latest animated feature release. It’s based on the classic children’s series, The Borrowers, by Mary Norton. Devotees of the beloved books could be skeptical of the latest film adaption, but they shouldn’t fear. The spirit of adventure, the clever gadgets, the strong sense of family and determination are treated with respect. Studio Ghibli, who brought “Ponyo” and “Spirited Away” to life, has done it again. Their telltale style of animation and attention to detail is a perfect medium to depict Arrietty’s miniscule world. Borrowers live quietly and respectfully with big people, called Beans. The Borrowers, a dying race, take only what they need, never more. They are always mindful of danger and are rightfully suspicious of Beans. If Borrowers are discovered, they must leave immediately to ensure survival.

Shawn, a sickly, lonely boy, spies tiny Arrietty in his aunt’s garden soon after his arrival at her home. He is visiting to rest and have quiet in the peaceful surroundings, with the hope he will gather strength for surgery. His care is supervised by Hara, an ever-watchful housekeeper, voiced by legendary Carol Burnett.

Arrietty is the only child of the last remaining Borrower family in the beautiful old home. Arrietty’s parents, stoic dad Pod (voiced by Will Arnett) and rattled mom Homily (voiced by Amy Poehler) struggle with the balance of freedom and safety. Arrietty’s first Borrowing, a rite of passage for all young Borrowers, coincides with Shawn’s arrival.

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by giving away Shawn and Arrietty meet. They communicate in innovative ways. They teach each other important lessons in friendship, devotion, and living bravely in the face of huge obstacles—And when I say “huge obstacles” I mean things like profound loneliness, parental estrangement, looming death and extinction. Somehow, these issues are treated with enough gentleness and humor that we weren’t left reeling and feeling battered by the experience. There are a lot of laughs sprinkled throughout, especially when Carol Burnett, Spiller the Cat, and a certain crow are involved.

I heartily recommend “The Secret World of Arrietty.” I took Tommy, Joel, and Beatrix. They couldn’t stop talking about it as we drove away. Joel and Beatrix even asked for their photo by the movie poster before we left:

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Yes. That’s an empty popcorn bucket on Joel’s head. Despite the warning it would make his hair into festering faux butter strands of sadness, he persisted. I think he may have been inspired by the Borrowers talent at taking ordinary objects and using them in new, creative ways? That’s what I’ll tell myself.

“The Secret World of Arrietty” opens in theaters on February 17, 2012.

(I was given 4 tickets to a review screening of “The Secret World of Arrietty.” The impressions and opinions are mine and my recommendation is purely genuine. Movie image used with permission.)

3 comments to “The Secret World of Arrietty” ~ A Little, Lush Tale of Friendship and Bravery

  • Mom

    I definitely want to see after reading your review. I’m not surprised by Joel’s ingenuity.

  • One of my daughters really wants to see this. Of course, as you know, movies for the whole family can get expensive. We have a movie gift card we are saving for Brave this summer. Maybe I’ll take just the one daughter and the rest can wait for the dollar movie. :/

  • Shayne

    Wow, I hadn’t even heard about this movie. But, then again, I’m not known for keeping up with these things since we so rarely go to the theater. Sounds like something the boys would like — we’ll try to check it out!

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