The Secret World of Arrietty Blu-ray Review
THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY is based on the popular children’s novel “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton, which spawned several sequels, making it one of the most beloved children’s fantasy series in the world. The series has inspired several film and TV adaptations, none of which have proven to be very memorable. So that left the door open for Studio Ghibli to apply its signature animation to the classic tale and share the story with a new generation. As much as I respect the film, the animation and the techniques used, I couldn’t help but feel something was missing.
The story revolves around a family of “borrowers”; little people that live under people’s houses and “borrow” things to survive. The film focuses on a family of borrowers consisting of a mother (Homily, voiced by Amy Poehler), a father (Pod, voiced by Will Arnett) and a spirited teenage daughter (Arrietty, voiced by Bridgit Mendler). They’re content living their lives in secret, but their world gets turned upside down when Arrietty meets and befriends a young human boy (Shawn, voiced by David Henrie) living in the house. To make matters worse, an older woman living in the house seems to have it out for the Borrowers, putting their lives in constant jeopardy.
The basic story of THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY is wonderful, especially for young children. The very idea of a species of tiny people living in the walls of your house is enough to spark anyone’s imagination. Unfortunately, the film never seemed able to capture the magic of the fantasy. Instead, it’s a cut and dry telling, making it difficult to ever feel attached to Arrietty and Shawn. It’s also told in an overly dramatic fashion, which is typical for Studio Ghibli, but is nonetheless frustrating. I’ve heard THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY described as a coming of age tale and although Arrietty technically grew up during the course of the film, I wasn’t convinced she or any of the other characters learned any life lessons.
THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY also missed the mark on exploring the deeper themes of trust, kindness, respect, etc. There were plenty of opportunities in the film to explore some of those themes, but it seemed like every opportunity was squandered in order to move to the next shot of Arrietty pouting. I never want a movie to beat me over the head with messages or hidden meaning, but when the opportunity is there, I do want movies to at least explore some of the more existential meanings. The lead character is forced into a situation where she has to trust someone that could easily betray and hurt her and the whole concept feels ignored.
The issue with all Studio Ghibli movies (CASTLE IN THE SKY, PONYO, etc.) is that they only appeal to a very specific audience. The Japanese animation, mixed with a strange score and out of place songs can be off-putting to American audiences. Although I found the film charming at times, THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY wasn’t appealing enough overall to give it a strong recommendation. It’s a nice, innocent movies for little kids (5 and under), but older kids and adults will find themselves bored through most of the film.
Video: THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY looks as good as it possibly can. It’s beautiful to look at, but don’t go into this thinking Pixar; the colors used are flat, which means they don’t pop off the screen like other recent animated films.
Audio: The audio for THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY was fine, doing justice to the strange score and lively soundtrack.
Nothing but the Original Japanese Storyboards, Music Videos, Trailers, TV Spots, and a Making of Feature for the music video