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Interweb Reviews: Arrietty [JAP, 2011, Animation, 94 min]

Studio Ghibli, one of Japan’s most famous and prestigious animation studios, has been steadily getting more exposure here in Europe. Since 2001 there have been four (out of six) Ghibli movies that have seen a theatrical release in the Netherlands, starting with Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea and most recently their newest film Arrietty.

 

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I love Studio Ghibli a lot, but so far I haven’t been able to see any of their movies in theaters yet, so when I heard Arrietty would be shown here (only in six selected theaters in the entire country, but still) I just had to see it. It seems the somewhat remarkable exposure the movie has been getting in free movie magazines and general newspapers has paid off since when I entered the theater (one of those hipster places that only show ‘arty’ movies) I found that I was far from the only person in the room (to compare, when I saw Corpse Bride there were a whopping THREE people in the entire room and that was in a normal, non-hipster theater). When the lights went on at the end though (I was slightly late coming in) I noticed three quarters of those people were all kids! Due to Studio Ghibli being advertised as ‘The Disney of Japan’ in most Dutch media, apparently parents decided it would be worth taking their kids to see the newest film, even if it was in the original Japanese language (praise the Lord for that by the way!).

Anyway, Arrietty is Ghibli’s take on Mary Norton’s famous story ‘The Borrowers’. I have to admit I haven’t actually read any of the books, but much like how it is with most Disney films, the story is famous enough for most people to be familiar with the general gist of it.
Arrietty, her father Pod and her mother Homily are tiny little people who live in the cracks of an old English manor and spend their lives ‘borrowing’ items from the humans who live there. One day -which miraculously coincides with the first day Arrietty is allowed to go borrowing for the first time together with her father- a young, sick boy moves in to the manor and tries to make contact with the family of borrowers. Naturally, this isn’t something that’s considered safe by Arrietty’s father and mother, since borrowers are supposed to remain hiden at all times.

Because the story is quite well known, and the movie doesn’t stray far from the book (I just flipped through a summary to make sure), the continuous feeling of wonderous bewilderment that is so present in most of Ghibli’s other movies is unfortunately slightly absent in Arrietty. People who have read the book will still find some things they hadn’t expected though, since some of the scenes and especially the ending have been altered to create a less sensation based and more slow paced story which fits snugly between Ghibli’s previous work. Compared to the other movies based on the Borrowers, Arrietty has an air of calm maturity due to omitting most of the ‘lol, they are little people so big people will think they are rodents EX DEE!’ sequences of the book.

There’s still plenty to gawk at though, even when the story itself doesn’t add many new things. In true Ghibli style, the music is absolutely beautiful, immediately sweeping the viewer away into the story and setting the perfect tone for each and every scene. Furthermore, as we’ve all come to expect from this studio, the backgrounds and animation are simply gorgeous. The attention paid to the detail in the homes of both the tiny Borrowers and the regular humans is extremely impressive, and when Arrietty and her father first enter the handmade dollhouse in the sick boy’s room it’s hard not to marvel at the stunning scenery. On the down side, Ghibli also continues its trend of having much less detailed characters running around in these environments, although Ghibli fans will certainly not be bothered by this.

 

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Like most Ghibli films, Arrietty made me feel both happy and remorseful after the credits had rolled by on the screen. The way this studio manages to to create such a meaningful experience in what is often called a ‘children’s format’ is truly amazing.
So even though this might not be the best Ghibli movie ever due to the story being largely unoriginal, it’s definitely worth your €8 (or, if you live in America, your..what?..5 bux?) to enjoy it on a big screen and to let your local movie theater know there’s a market for these beautiful movies out here instead of lazily downloading the bluray rip.


Verdict: 7,5/10

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This entry was posted on 24 July 2011 by in Animu, Reviews and tagged , , , , , .

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