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The Secret World of Arrietty

A family of 'Borrowers' live secretly under the floors of a human family's residence. When daughter Arrietty is discovered by young human being Sean, the lives of everyone living in the home changes.

Anything But A Tiny Tale!

4 out of 5 popcorn buckets

Rated: G  For all audiences.

Release Date: February 17, 2012

Runtime: 1 hr 34 mins

Director:  Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Gary Rydstrom

Writers: Hayao Miyazaki (screenplay), Mary Norton (the novel, "The Borrowers")

Cast:  Bridgit Mendler, Will Arnet, Amy Poehler, David Henrie, Moises Arias, Carol Burnett

SYNOPSIS:  A family of 4-inch tall 'Borrowers' live secretly within the walls and under the floors of a human family's residence. When the daughter Arrietty is discovered by the young human being Sean, the lives of everyone living under the roof changes forever.

REVIEW: Involved in the creation of such animated adventures as Spirited Away and Ponyo, director Hiromasa Yonebayashi brings a little tale to life with a screenplay from Howl's Moving Castle's Hayao Miyazaki adapted from Mary Norton's book, "The Borrowers". Several television series have been created from Norton's book, including a 1973 film, a 1997 film, and a 1992 TV series of the same name, plus a 1993 TV series The Return of the Borrowers. Now, "The Borrowers" is brought back to the screen as The Secret World of Arrietty.

Arrietty Clock (Bridget Mendler, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel) stands only four inches in height, her entire world the house and property of the human residence she and her mother Homily (Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation) and father Pod (Will Arnet,Despicable Me) call home. They live in the walls and under the floorboards of the house, making their house a home with miniature furniture, homemade and found. They borrow only what they need to live, sugar cubes, tissue paper, cookies, crackers, and other necessities. When the young sickly human 'being' Shawn (David Henrie, Wizards of Waverly Place) comes to his Aunt Jessica's (Gracie Poletti) house to rest up for an operation, he discovers Arrietty while she and her father are in the act of 'borrowing' one night. Once a 'Borrower' is seen, it is tradition to move to a new residence before something bad befalls them. Anxious to protect and help Arrietty, Shawn has to deal with Jessica's superstitious housekeeper Haru (Carol Burnett, Horton Hears a Who!) who looks to expose the tiny borrowers for the thieves they are. 

In the same style as other recent Japanese children's animated films, The Secret World of Arrietty is beautifully painted and animated. Attention is paid to the smallest details, from the upside down ceramic flower pot used as a hearth to a lithium battery used to light a small light bulb for Pod to use during his nightly 'borrowing' excursions. Director Yonebayashi executes each frame of the film with precision and a scale grander than most non-CGI cartoons these days. The way that Arrietty views the world is captured with grandeur and a sense of innocent wonder.

With wonder comes danger, especially when you are only four inches in height. Arrietty and her family face danger each time they set foot outside their humble abode. From rats to the family cat, from gutting winds to a ravenous crow, from the continued security of a secret life to a housekeeper interested in exposing the Borrowers to humankind, every step a Borrower makes could be filled with peril. Pod uses his experience and extensive network of mechanisms to navigate the treacherous pitfalls of the human house. Arrietty uses her youth, agility and eagerness to keep up with her father. Arrietty's mother Homily stays behind worrying enough for all three of them.

The Secret World of Arrietty is a children's film focused on the delight of children. When Arrietty climbs up to the top of a human dresser and drops something off the edge, the kids in the audience gasp. When Arrietty is confronted by an oversized bug and must dispatch it with her sewing pin, scattered eewwws can be heard. Arietty's panicked mother gets outright laughs. Ladybugs illicit ooohs and aaahs. Parents and grownups will be amused and delighted right along with the kids, partially in response to the kids' reactions to the film, partially in response to their own reaction.

The Secret World of Arrietty is a gentle, delightful adventure for kids. At its heart is a young girl looking for and trusting in contact outside her own family, hoping beyond hope that she and her family are not the last of their kind. Optimistic and fun, with a grand sense of adventure, Arrietty's world is one secret that should be shared.

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