The Borrower Arrietty

The Borrower Arrietty

Why is it that Hollywood feels the need to dumb shit down to the lowest possible level for children?

Recently, Mrs. Brik and I went to the first-run movie theater (which we rarely do) to check out The Borrower Arrietty. Here’s a list of the crap we saw trailers for before Arrietty started: Mirror Mirror, Madagascar 3, The Lorax, Brave, and a horrible Disney Channel sci-fi sitcom.

Madascar and Lorax are both an assault upon the eyes. Bright, clashing colors, huge amorphous shapes, and a general sense of unreality that makes me want to puke. Of course, if it’s for kids it has to look cartoony and overdone. Apparently, kids can’t understand something animated that looks at least somewhat real. Mirror Mirror looks just as shitty, except it’s live-action. The whole movie looks cheap and fake and must have been filmed entirely on a green screen. Plus, the addition of Julia Roberts in anything automatically drops it into the crap heap. The woman hasn’t been in anything good since Ocean’s Eleven in 2001, and she sucked in that, too. Brave also looks like a CGI shitfest, but it comes from Pixar and they have a good track record, so I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt this time and hope it might be good. And that Disney channel show. Jesus fucking Christ. Mrs. Brik and I were cracking up at how retarded it looked. They make the most obvious, lamest, safest jokes imaginable. Sure, kids don’t need to be subjected to Chris Rock or George Carlin style standup, but they aren’t morons. They can understand a joke with mild complexity. All of these are proof that we as a culture constantly insult our childrens’ intelligence. Unfortunately, our children like this drivel because it’s all they are ever exposed to.

They should be exposed to good stuff, like anything in the Studio Ghibli film library. The Borrower Arrietty (that’s the official title which was inexplicably changed to The Secret World of Arrietty in the U.S. and just Arrietty in Europe) is one of those movies, and would be a great option for something you could watch with a kid. 

Arrietty and Sho/Sean.

The great thing about Ghibli’s films is that they are family friendly, adults and kids can find things that work on levels for both of them, and neither of you will find your IQ points dropping by just watching them. Anyone who has read my 20 Awesomest Anime of the Decade (2000-2009) will know that I’m a fan. My favorites include: Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and My Neighbor Totoro. But really, they’re all good. You can’t go wrong watching anything by Ghibli.

The Borrower Arrietty is a 2010 film which is based on the series of The Borrowers novels by Mary Norton. The movie was written and produced by film god Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Although, I have to wonder how big a role Miyazaki played in the directorial department. Watching the movie, it certainly seems like he directed it. If you didn’t know it was directed by Yonebayashi, you would almost immediately guess that it was directed by Miyazaki. Since Yonebayashi is a newcomer, and Miyazaki wrote and produced it, he probably offered a guiding hand along the way. And that’s certainly not a bad thing. Arrietty is a fantastic film, with the trademark Ghibli appeal all over it.

Arrietty and her parents.

The movie features “Borrowers” who are little people that live hidden away in the homes of human beings. They secretly “borrow” things that humans won’t miss. They certainly have an interesting definition of “borrowing.” Another way to put it would be “stealing.” If I “borrowed” my neighbor’s car I’d be doing 3-5 years in jail. But I digress. Arrietty is the daughter of Pod and Homily, and she joins her father on her first borrowing. It fails miserably as she is seen by a human boy. The boy (Sho in the Japanese version and Sean in the English) has been staying at a country-side Japanese home as he rests up while awaiting surgery for a congenital heart defect. He tries to be friends with her since he is incredibly lonely, but she resists, as any time Borrowers meet humans, it almost always has disastrous implications for the little people. Eventually, some shit goes down, and Arrietty and Sho/Sean must team up to save the day.

Arrietty does so many things right. First, the animation quality is fantastic. Ghibli still does a lot of hand-drawn animation, with sparing use of very well integrated CGI. This is a breath of fresh air compared to every fucking full-CGI shitfest “kid-movie” that Hollywood craps out each month. The animation quality is amazing, characters moved fluidly, and everything has incredible detail.

When Arrietty and Pod creep out into the house at night, you get quite a sense of what it’s like for them to be so small. The house appears immenous, dark, and cavernous. The huge scale of the human world is well depicted through the film’s great sense of atmosphere. Dangers are always present for the Borrowers as birds, cats, and bugs (most of which want to eat them) can pop up at any time. While this is not an action movie, the movie can be really exciting and suspenseful in a few scenes.

That cat looks hungry. Or indifferent. Actually, I think indifference is the default look for all cats.

Arrietty isn’t the fastest-paced film ever made. If anything it is slower and more ponderous. There is a lot of depth and soulfulness. It takes its time in all the right places. Just because it’s slow doesn’t mean it’s boring.

It expresses depth of ideas as well. Much more than typical Hollywood fare which consists primarily of CGI animals farting. Arrietty shows us what it’s like to be different, how to live in harmony with those who are different, how to accept others, and explores the meaning of friendship. A lot of animated films fail to explore any concepts and should be immediately relegated to the trash bucket. Animation doesn’t have to be stupid or straight-forward. Children can understand concepts. Arrietty should be lauded for giving great entertainment and having depth as well.

Coming from Japan, Arrietty was originally voiced in Japanese. However, this movie is unique in that it has two English-language dubs. The first comes from the UK and the second the US. Since Disney is the US distributor, obviously Mrs. Brik and I saw their version. The US/Disney dub was phenomenal. The voices fit their roles well, and the acting was top-notch as usual. Bridgit Mendler brought all the charm, spunk, and vulnerability needed in the multi-faceted role of Arrietty. David Henrie was great as the lonely and subdued Sho/Sean. Arrietty’s parents Pod and Homily were perfectly cast as Will Arnett and Amy Poehler. The father, played by Arnett, at first seems a bit monotone, but you later realize that he brings a nice contrast of somberness to the more hysterical (and hilarious) mother played by Poehler. Besides, they are believable as a couple since they are married in real life. Finally, the always fantastic Carol Burnett turned in a great performance as the slightly crazy but likable “villain” Ms. Haru.

Good cast.

I haven’t seen the UK dub, so I can’t comment on it. It may be equally good as the US version, but I doubt it’s better. A lot of dumbasses on the internet are saying the UK version is automatically better because the books took place in England. That argument makes no sense because the movie takes place in Japan. Besides, its a fictional story with fantastical characters, so they could be speaking Esperanto and it wouldn’t be any more or less “accurate.” Also, there’s no sense in hating on a Disney dub just because it’s Disney. They always take great care to stay true to Ghibli’s work, and they always succeed. Part of that is because Disney’s Chief Creative Officer is John Lasseter, a Pixar executive and self-proclaimed Ghibli/Miyazaki fan.

Arrietty is a really good movie. If you’re an adult it won’t insult your intelligence. It doesn’t have anything objectionable, so you can watch it with the whole family. It has nice, traditional-style animation which is easy on the eyes. It has an incredible cast. It also has a fun story, and some deeper concepts. While it isn’t going to break your brain, it at least has some depth to it, which makes it more rewarding, and something that kids can understand and enjoy. It isn’t dumbed down at all, which makes it an even more refreshing film. The only thing missing from it was catbus.

Arrietty is another great film from the Ghibli library. At first, I was going to give this a score of Good but then I realized that it deserves better. It is miles above the typical crap we see regurgitated in movie theaters on a daily basis. And it is miles above the average shitty “kid-movies” Hollywood tries to feed us. It is so much more than that. So, I decided to give The Borrower Arrietty my highest recommendation. Stop watching crap like Kung Fu Panda, Rio, Happy Feet, Ice Age 7, and Shrek 12, and go see this while it’s still in theaters. You won’t be disappointed.

Verdict: Awesome


10 Responses to “The Borrower Arrietty”

  1. February 25, 2012 at 8:55 am

    I heard that the U.S. ending credits have a post-ending monologue from Sho/Sean that the Japanese (and I guess U.K.) versions don’t include? Something about “I never saw Arrietty again, but I heard the house down the road is missing a few things”.

    Anyway, I hope to see this while it’s still in theaters too. You just can’t go wrong with Ghibli!

  2. February 25, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Yes, they did add that line to assure the audience that Sho/Sean lived through his heart surgery. I didn’t feel like knowing a central character lives on hurt the movie at all. It’s a nice bit a closure, actually.

  3. 3 Reed
    February 29, 2012 at 2:39 am

    This is the second Arriety article I’ve read today. Weird. I’ll put it on the backlog.

  4. February 29, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    I have been hearing nothing but good things about this film on blogs. I am going to have to see if I can convince my partners in crime to review this film. nice post, and I enjoyed checking out your blog.

  5. 5 anaract
    March 19, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I thought this movie was pretty good. Compared to any other modern-day children’s movie it was ultimate god mode, but when you inevitably compare it to Ghibli’s previous movies it loses a bit of its luster. But still, I think they did a great job on it. Ghibli is one of the very few studios that still realizes what children actually benefit from in a movie.

    Too bad Americans are massive anti-japanese xenophobes when it comes to TV and movies. I think most of the people watching this will be Miyazaki’s fan-base which consists of extremely fortunate 17-35 year-olds who luckily stumbled upon these movies as kids. And then they’ll show it to their kids if they have any. But the average parent hates anything remotely related to anime and therefore will never show their kids this movie. it’s sad

    • March 24, 2012 at 2:15 pm

      Yeah, it sucks that anime just can’t get a foothold in the U.S. In terms of Ghibli movies, however, Arrietty has done extremely well at the U.S. box office. So, people are at least seeing it.

  6. 7 Mark
    October 30, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Studio Ghibli movies are always interesting to watch. But they always seem to have a weird way of ending. It is almost like they left something out, but they make greay movies. I loved the way they bring characters to almost real life. I own 2 movies from Ghibli, the first is Naussica of the valley of the wind, the second is The secret world of Arietty. I thought both were animated perfectly, and I plan on collecting the rest of their movies. Great animating Studio Ghibli !

    • October 30, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      Yeah, Ghibli produces some awesome movies. A lot of anime often have weird, rushed, or nonexistent endings. Japanese shit is odd like that. Not even Ghibli is immune, I guess.

  7. 9 Squiggsquasher
    April 1, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    I watched this on the telly yesterday, and god I loved it. I saw the UK dub, as I live in the Land of the Dribbling Cloud, and as dubs go it was superb. I still want to hear the original Japanese version though.

    One side I absolutely loved was the soundtrack. Oh my, the soundtrack. It was absolutely beautiful.

    I’m going to find this film on DVD and show it to my kids, if/when I have any. It is without a doubt one of the most touching anime ever made.

    I do wish that networks would show anime in the original language with subtitles, though!

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February 2012


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