29 July 2011
Ghibli's latest is an adaptation of Mary Norton's The Borrowers, relocated to contemporary Tokyo. Shō is a young boy with heart trouble, dispatched to live with his great aunt for the summer. He spies a tiny girl upon his arrival, and becomes fascinated by the Borrowers. The Clocks are a family of Borrowers who live beneath Shō's new home, and their daughter, Arrietty, is equally as fascinated by the world of "human beans".
Studio Ghibli's films are amongst the few world cinema releases that can justifiably be dubbed, given how their target audience is children, for whom it's a much more valid complaint to say that subtitles are hard work. And in the past, there's been inspired re-casting of voices- my favourite Ghibli outing is still Porco Rosso with the English language version's lead vocals by Michael Keaton. Although they've laid on two English language dubs of Arrietty, the UK version featuring Saoirse Ronan and Mark Strong, I was scared away by the shrill stylings of Ponyo and stuck with subtitles.
But of Arrietty, it should be said that the greatest difference is how down-to-earth this one feels, especially for a film about miniscule people. It's such a straight adaptation of the first of Norton's series of books, there's little room for the studio's usual flights of fancy. There's no oblique magic, nor any sight of colossal airships or zeppelins. The charm of the piece is in how the story is allowed to speak for itself. I don't say this to suggest a contrast with the studio's previous work, but simply to appreciate the change of pace from other recent animated films in general.
It's considerably more colourful, too, than the slightly soggy seaside antics of Ponyo, which happened to take a few more liberties with its source material too. Miyazaki didn't direct this one, but his protege Yonebayashi Hiroma steps up and finding constant rapture and beauty in the vivid garden outside Shō's front door. If we still consider Ghibli to be a better, more Japanese version of Disney, then thank heavens they're still flying the flag for hand-drawn animation when it looks this good, putting 3D CG features like Mars Needs Moms and, yes, Cars 2 to shame.
Arrietty is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Arrietty, why not share your comments below? Now that I think about it, I would like the option to see the dubbed version of this one- Ronan and Strong are both pretty good...
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.