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article imageReview: Arrietty’s world too good to be kept secret

By Sarah Gopaul     Feb 17, 2012 in Entertainment
'The Secret World of Arrietty' is Studio Ghibli’s latest picture about “Borrowers,” four-inch-tall people who try to live undetected in another family's home.
If you've ever heard of Studio Ghibli, it's likely because of the work of one man: Hayao Miyazaki. For more than 30 years, he has been at the helm of their most popular and stunning titles. The world took notice with the Oscar award-winning Spirited Away and there has been an insatiable hunger in the West for his animation ever since. A partnership with Disney has resulted in more regular and available releases of his pictures. But now, Miyazaki has stepped aside and given the director's chair to one of his protégés. The Secret World of Arrietty continues the tradition of beauty and fantasy of the previous films, ensuring Miyazaki's legacy will not be lost.
Sean was raised with stories of "the little people" that secretly lived in his mother's childhood home. She dreamed of one day meeting them and passed that desire on to her son. Arrietty and her parents are "Borrowers." Only four inches tall, they live underneath the floorboards in a cottage filled with the necessities and comforts of a home. They understandably fear the ginormous human beings and strive not to be seen under any circumstances. But when Sean is sent to the old house for convalescence, everything changes.
There is an innocent quality to Studio Ghibli's films that cannot be found in other animated movies. It's one of the many elements that make them so appealing – and different. Borrowers only take what they need and nothing that will be missed. This is out of necessity, but also an innate and genuine kindness. Arrietty's family is very close and they obviously care deeply for each other. In contrast, Sean's parents went away on business, leaving him alone with an aunt and caregiver a week before he was to have a significant operation.
There's also a subtle beauty that permeates every aspect of the picture. The animators' attention to detail is unrivaled. A dollhouse is given the most intricate decoration, from tiny china plates to fancy wallpaper. Even Arrietty's miniature home is adorned with the most trivial items that give it a genuine lived-in feeling. Even though it includes curious and sometimes cute insects from the garden, it's expectedly missing the adorable little creatures that became a Miyazaki signature. But Nina the cat comes close.
The story is sweet and simple, but unique. It's based on Mary Norton's children's book, "The Borrowers." The tale is whimsical in that there's a secret world that co-exists with our own. The characters are likeable and engaging; though not surprisingly the Borrowers are far more interesting than the humans. The only flaw is the English dub of a Studio Ghibli movie never quite feels right, even if they have Carol Burnett.
Without the regular risk of being eaten by a toad or squished like a bug, there's absolutely no reason not to see this film.
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Starring: Bridgit Mendler, Amy Poehler and Will Arnett
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