The Secret World of Arrietty? Family Movie Night in our house usually means the kids pick an animated-to-the-gills cartoon that tries to make itself relevant to “all ages” with lots of double-entendre, fast-paced action scenes, and mildly suggestive sexual tension. (I’m looking at you Puss in Boots.)
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So how refreshing to find a G-rated movie that has our all-ages audience riveted without a single car chase, animal hip-hop number, or over-their-heads joke.
Having never read The Borrowers, I came to The Secret World of Arrietty with little knowledge of the story of little people who live in the walls of a home and “borrow” things they need from the owners. Instead, I was just so excited to see another Studio Ghibli film, since Ponyo, My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service are some of our very-favorite family movies of all time.
Here, the title character is a strong, 14-year-old, miniature girl who lives with her parents under the floorboards of a stately home in the countryside. Think, a 4″ tall Katniss Everdeen, in some ways. The movie starts with her coming out of sorts; she is now the age to begin “borrowing” items from the home owners, which sounds simple enough. It requires a perilous journey with her dad (voiced by Will Arnett), that completely freaks out her mother (voiced by his real life wife, Amy Pohler).
In fact Arrietty’s mom is freaked out by everything, something I found a bit over the top, but my own tween disagreed. She said it reminded her of how I act when I’m stressed. (Though I beg to differ.)
Arrietty soon forms a friendship with a sad and sickly real-sized boy named Shawn which is sweet and perfectly age-appropriate. In other words, this is no “someday my prince will come” story with Shawn and Arrietty living happily ever after. In fact, the ending is quite bittersweet and might require some explaining for very young kids.
Another wonderful touch: keen ears of a certain age will recognize the voice of the story’s villain as a very funny Carol Burnett.
Keep in mind that the pacing of this movie is slower and less action-packed than say a Pixar film. But kids who enjoy a good storyline will be utterly charmed as we were. And don’t be surprised if afterwards, they start blaming all the things they lose on Borrowers who sneak up to take them in the night. –Christina