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Movie Review: The Secret World of Arrietty

February 17, 2012

The Secret World of Arrietty – A Walt Disney Pictures’ Release

Release Date: February 17th, 2012

Rated G

Running time: 94 minutes

Hiromasa Yonebayashi (dir.)

Hayao Miyazaki (screenplay)

Keiko Niwa (screenplay)

Loosely based on the novel The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Cécile Corbel (music)

Dale Sison (music)

Bridgit Mendler as Arrietty (voice)

David Henrie as Shawn (voice)

Amy Poehler as Homily (voice)

Will Arnett as Pod (voice)

Moises Arias as Spiller (voice)

Carol Burnett as Hara (voice)

Gracle Poletti as Aunt Jessica (voice)

©Walt Disney Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.

Arrietty (voice of Bridgit Mendler) and Shawn (David Henrie) in The Secret World of Arrietty.

Our reviews below:


The Secret World of Arrietty Review By John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Loosely based on the classic children’s novel The Borrowers by Mary Norton, The Secret World of Arrietty is the latest anime film from the master storytellers at Studio Ghibli in Japan.  Released by Walt Disney Pictures with an American dub done at Pixar, this is a beautifully animated and quietly effective film that is perfect for those of pretty much any age.

Arrietty (voice of Bridgit Mendler) lives with her parents (Will Arnett and Amy Poehler) under the floorboards of the country house being looked after by the elderly Hara (Carol Burnett).  Standing only a few inches tall, they are “borrowers” who sneak in unnoticed and take things that the human beings have in abundance like sugar cubes and tissues.  But then Arrietty is seen by a teenaged boy named Shawn (David Henrie) who is staying at the house to rest as he awaits surgery for his failing heart.  The two become friends, helping each other stay alive and learn the importance of living.

The details of Arrietty’s world is beautifully animated with the same intricate detail that we have come to expect from Studio Ghibli.  The way they get in and out of the house and use items that the humans take for granted to stay alive adds excitement and inspiration to the story.  The quiet scenes between Arrietty and Shawn are bittersweet and often beautiful in the way that they deal with issues of life and death, without being too mature for audiences of all ages.  The heart of this story will stick with you after you leave the theatre.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Studio Ghibli’s last film Ponyo, despite giving a passing grade to it in the summer of 2009.  The nice animation ultimately couldn’t hide the mediocre voice acting of the American dub and the whole film felt a little too childish for my liking.  But this truly imaginative outing is a big step up in terms of quality storytelling and entertainment value for those of all ages.  Adults are sure to find much to admire about The Secret World of Arrietty, and kids who have the right attention span will also take a lot away from this visually beautiful and quietly resonant film.


The Secret World of Arrietty Review by Erin V.  

***1/2 (out of 4)

The Secret World of Arrietty tells the story of a family of ‘borrowers.’  Little people only four inches tall who live under the floorboards of houses, borrowing only the simple things that they need to live from the big people (us) living above.  There is one rule that they must obey when moving around the house though: A borrower must never be seen.  Because if they are, the human’s curiosity can’t be stopped and they would have to move to be safe.

One day when a new boy named Shawn moves into the house above, Arrietty is accidentally seen by him, creating a chain-reaction that threatens the family.  Shawn isn’t the problem though – rather it is the maid Hara (Carol Burnett), who is insistent upon finding and capturing the tiny family.  When Arrietty’s mother is captured, it is then that despite what her parents have told her, she must enlist Shawn’s help to get her mother back.

The story is quite simple, but sweet, and moves along at a steady although quiet pace.  The English dub (I saw the US version) is fine, although as always I’d be curious to see the original Japanese version.  The animation (in particular the set design) is gorgeous to look at regardless though, full of the tiny details in Arrietty’s world, and the size scale between the big and little worlds is also kept amazingly accurate throughout.  The score by Cécile Corbel and Dale Sison again, although simple, is fitting in the film and pleasant to listen to.  With the simple story, a G-rating and only 94-minutes long, this film is appropriate for all ages – so long as younger members of the family can handle sitting through a quietly-paced film.  The Secret World of Arrietty provides for a nice, gentle time at the theatre.


The Secret World of Arrietty Review by Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

Based on The Borrowers by Mary Norton, The Secret World of Arrietty describes the friendship between a boy and a tiny girl named Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler).  She is a “borrower,” a tiny person who lives with her parents under the floorboards of a house in Japan.  Arrietty is taought how to borrow things people have lost, but she breaks the number one rule of don’t let the humans see you.  A boy named Shawn (David Henrie), who his staying with his elderly aunt (Gracle Poletti) and her housekeeper (Carol Burnett), is the one who sees Arrietty.  But a friendship between the human boy and Arrietty ensues, and Shawn must protect the borrowers when Arrietty’s mother (Amy Poehler) is captured.

The Secret World of Arrietty is a very interesting and likable film.  The detail in the animation is incredible.  We see the clever ways that the borrowers get from place to place.  The detail in the garden, from the depiction of each flower to the little place Arrietty’s family calls home, is just beautiful.  The score of this movie, which combines Celtic and Japanese elements, is also beautiful.  The only disappointment is that, like in Ponyo, the American pop song during the end credits does not fit the Japanese feel of the story.  However, The Secret World of Arrietty is an intelligent and sweet film that children of all ages can enjoy.


The Secret World of Arrietty Review by Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

The Secret World of Arrietty is Hayao Miyazaki’s gentle and beautifully animated retelling of Mary Norton’s children’s novel, The Borrowers.  Set in the Japanese countryside, the film is a sweet and heartwarming story of an unlikely friendship.

Shawn (voiced by David Henrie) is a sickly teenager who has been sent to stay with his Aunt Jessica (Gracle Poletti) and her elderly housekeeper, Hara (Carol Burnett) for a quiet rest in Aunt Jessica’s countryside home.  Shawn soon discovers that the house has a secret – tiny people called “borrowers” who live under the floorboards.  When Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler), a spirited fourteen year old borrower is accidentally seen by Shawn, a feared human being, the two teens lives are forever changed.

The animation in The Secret World of Arrietty is just beautiful.  The landscape of the garden with the trees, leaves and flowers is Monet-like with muted pastels and forms a lovely background for the anime characters.  It’s the incredible attention to detail and scale that makes this film wonderful to watch.  The tiny borrowers world is wonderfully believable.  Anyone with an interest in dollhouses will appreciate this charming little world.  When the human world and borrower world cross paths, the scale is always believable with even the background sounds seeming louder to the tiny people.  The animation is nicely matched with a Japanese/Celtic sounding score by Cécile Corbel and Dale Sison.

There is a nice mix of humour, adventure and sweetness in this film.  The story has a quiet, slow pace and is a nice change from a lot of animation available for children.  Miyazaki fans are likely to be pleased with The Secret World of Arrietty.  This is a nice film for families who are looking for something quieter to watch together.  While it will look fine on disc at home, a big theatre screen enhances the beauty of the animation.


The Secret World of Arrietty Review by Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

The Secret World of Arrietty is under the floors and in the walls of a country house, where the 10 cm tall Borrowers make their home with bits of food and other items from the [human] Beings. Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler) is a brave 14-year-old living with her resourceful father (Will Arnett) and nervous mother (Amy Poehler). They have to avoid attack by the cat or raven, and discovery by humans which would force them  to move away. The housekeeper Hara (Carol Burnett) ia particularly suspicious, but the boy Shawn (David Henrie) resting up for heart surgery at the house where his mother grew up meets and befriends Arrietty. However, having been discovered, her parents prepare to move, guided by the feral Borrower Spiller (Moises Arias).

The latest anime feature from Studio Ghibli released by Disney, The Secret World of Arrietty is directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi from a screenplay co-written by Hayao Miyazaki based on the novel by Mary Norton. As expected, the hand-drawn images are beautiful, full of interesting details carefully drawn to scale and a colour palette in the nature scenes reminiscent of Monet. The simple story will appeal to all ages, and the American voice cast is ok. I am hoping the disc release will give us the option of hearing the British and Japanese casts as well, the former featuring Saoirse Ronan in the title role. Even the closing credits accompanied by an obligatory song from Disney’s Mendler couldn’t detract from the charm of this film, unlike the obnoxious Jonas rap that spoiled the end of Ponyo.


Consensus: With beautifully detailed animation and a heartfelt story, The Secret World of Arrietty is a quietly effective film from Studio Ghibli that comes highly recommended to those of all ages.  ***1/2 (Out of 4)

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