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Review: The Secret World of Arrietty

I thought this film had stunning visual effects. The backgrounds look like watercolor paintings and the scenes of the garden and the assortment of wildflowers in the yard were beautiful. The film could use some improvements though.

3.5 Starfish out of 5

Have you ever noticed anything in your house goes inexplicably missing? Haru, the housekeeper of a countryside home and caretaker of Shawn, a sickly human boy, believes that this is the work of borrowers, little people who live in the walls of homes and take things that humans wouldn’t usually miss to survive. There are indeed borrowers living in a home underneath the humans’ house, and a 14 year old borrower named Arrietty is seen by Shawn. Her father and mother decide to leave the house since Arrietty was seen by a human being. Arrietty believes that Shawn is not as dangerous as he seems; however, Haru’s unstoppable curiosity on the borrowers puts the whole family’s lives in danger.

I thought this film had stunning visual effects. The backgrounds look like watercolor paintings and the scenes of the garden and the assortment of wildflowers in the yard were beautiful. When you see the world through the eyes of Arrietty, everything looks so big and colorful, and you notice little details that humans often miss, like secret doors in the walls, how water rolls off leaves, and how pill bugs interact with each other. Arrietty’s bedroom looks like a forest of leaves, flowers, and berries. I also thought that the storyline was intriguing.

The film could use some improvements though. First of all, I didn’t think the dialogue was that good. Arrietty sounded a lot older than she actually was, and she didn’t seem much like a 14 year old. I also think that Shawn’s voice and dialogue don’t make you feel very much compassion for him. All of the voices sounded like they were just following a script. Also, the borrower family seemed lacking in family dynamics. There was not very much interaction among the family members, and I didn’t feel as engaged in this movie as I did in other Studio Ghibli films like Ponyo and Spirited Away, both directed by animation legend Hayao Miyazaki, who is the screenwriter of this film. Finally, the borrowers would need nano-cells to perform tasks like talking and thinking like humans. And even so, osmosis and diffusion would react differently in their minute bodies, but since it is a fairy tale, it counts as poetic license.

I give this film 3.5 starfish. I thought that the idea of little people living in houses was a fascinating one. There were a few flaws in this film, but the glorious artwork was a redeeming quality.

Moral: Friendship can transcend differences in size, appearance, and ways of life.

Copyright 2012 by Perry S. Chen

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Perry S. Chen is an 11-year-old award-winning child film critic, artist, animator, TEDx speaker, and entertainment personality, currently in 6th grade from San Diego.  He started reviewing movies at age 8 in 3rd grade using a kid-friendly starfish rating system, and has been featured in CBS, NPR, NBC, CNN, CCTV (China Central Television), Variety, The Young Icons, The Guardian, The China Press, etc.  He was a presenter at the 2010 Annie Awards for Animation,

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