If you’re an 80s child, then you know a little show called The Littles, which was featured on Saturday morning on NBC. The original story called ‘The Borrowers’ by Mary Norton is where The Littles originated from and where Miyazaki gets his inspiration for The Secret World of Arrietty.
Residing quietly beneath the floorboards are little people who live undetected in a secret world to be discovered. Arrietty (voice of Bridgit Mendler), a tiny, but tenacious 14-year-old, lives with her parents (voices of Will Arnett and Amy Poehler) in the recesses of a suburban garden home, unbeknownst to the homeowner and her housekeeper (voice of Carol Burnett). Like all little people, Arrietty (AIR-ee-ett-ee) remains hidden from view, except during occasionalcovert ventures beyond the floorboards to “borrow” scrap supplies like sugar cubes from her human hosts.
My kids, and me, were absolutely fascinated on Miyazaki’s take on Norton’s ‘The Borrowers’. Miyazaki creates a very compact, very cute and dangerous world within the confines of The Secret World of Arrietty. Most of the danger in the film isn’t brought on by giant bugs or ferocious cats, rather it’s a danger of discovery by the human race. Arrietty’s people are trying to fight extinction, while the avoiding humans at all cost. There’s a large distrust between the little people when it comes to humans, and that makes the dangerous adventure of our main character even more intriguing to watch.
Having said that, her upbringing by a very paranoid and protective set of parents, Pod (Will Arnett) and Homily (Amy Poehler), sets the tone for the ‘distrust’ factor in the film. What’s remarkable is that Miyazaki manages to bring out the innocence in Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler) with her at first brief interaction with Shawn (David Henrie), then later her dependence on his help to save her parents, and home, from certain doom. Much like a child, her curiosity blocks out her caution, and her relationship with Shawn grows stronger and stronger. It’s quite a subtle change, and more importantly very believable. Miyazaki captures the raw innocence of a child not knowing the real life dangers that lie ahead, and replaces it with curiosity and adventure.
For adults reading this, if you looked back on your childhood with adult eyes then you would see so many moments missed by not taking chances. That is what makes a childhood great, and one that makes Arrietty’s character young and free. Again, Miyazaki captured her perfectly in this story, and the story fit the bill to magnify this part of a childhood.
Now, this story isn’t perfect. The build up to the ending seemed strong, but the ending itself was a bit unsatisfying. While I won’t give anything away, I felt like the climax of the film should have been longer and more purposeful. Instead, it’s a bit empty and leaving you wanting more. Don’t misunderstand my distastefulness of the ending for a complete dislike of the film; the ending was the only issue I had. Up to that point, I couldn’t take my eyes off the movie. It was magical, whimsical, funny and dramatic. Per usual with Miyazaki, he truly brings his characters to life and makes them memorable. He’s never missed on that aspect of any of his films.
All I wish is that the ending could have been better. Anyway, you definitely should see this film, especially if you have kids and/or you are a Studio Ghibli fan. It’s definitely a classic.
With that said, the Blu-ray portion of this movie is simply gorgeous! It doesn’t have artifacts or graininess in it. The colors are vivid and bright, as the transfer was crystal clear clean. I was really impressed with how the movie turned out in HD and I highly recommend seeing this film on Blu-ray, if not only for the HD upgrade. It’s probably one of the better Studio Ghibli transfers to Blu-ray; possibly even topping Ponyo.
As for the audio, you get both English and Japanese in 5.1 DTS-HD, which is the way it should be. You also get the French stream in 5.1 DTS-HD (for Canadians and French folk). The film aspect ratio is 1.85:1 and looks gorgeous on any HDTV (well, except for the crappy ones).
Finally, the special features you get with this release is as follows:
– Storyboard presentation of the film
– Original Japanese Trailers and Television Commercials
– “Summertime” Music Video – Performed by Bridgit Mendler, the speaking voice of Arrietty.
– The Making Of “Summertime” Behind the Scenes – Bridgit Mendler hosts a look at the making of the music video.
-“Arrietty’s Song” Music Video – Experience the movie’s theme song, performed by innovative singer and harpist Cécile Corbel, who also wrote the lyrics.
Solid features that will make Miyazaki fans happy. Lots of fun music for the kiddos in the family.