Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Last night I celebrated the progress I made on my paper by watching the latest Studio Ghibli film “The Secret World of Arrietty.” Based on Mary Norton’s 1952 novel The Borrowers, it originally debuted in Japan in July 2010. My review will be on the English version, but will make references to the Japanese version.
The story stars Arrietty (voiced by Bridgit Mendler), a spunky, teenage Borrower who lives with her mother and father (voiced by the hilarious comedy duo Amy Poehler and Will Arnett). Borrowers are tiny people who reside in human homes and secretly take things that won’t be missed, such as sugar cubes and tissues.
Arrietty is excited for her first Borrowing expedition with her dad, but fails miserably when human boy Shawn (voiced by David Henrie) spots her. Shawn recently moved into the house to live with his great aunt Jessica and her maid Hara, because he suffers from a heart condition and his own parents are too busy with work to take care of him before his upcoming operation.
Shawn just wants to befriend Arrietty, but due to the danger of human sightings, she has to find a new home with her family. Danger indeed befalls them when Hara captures Arriety’s mother, and Shawn and Arrietty team up to save her. But will the Borrowers still have to move? Are there other Borrowers out there? And what will happen to Shawn’s declining health?
All these questions are answered in this visual wonderland. Studio Ghibi never disappoints, and the setting of the backyard is even more beautiful from the Borrowers’ perspective. The details are so crisp you can practically feel the leaves and taste the drops of dew. I also enjoy the relaxed pace of these movies; notice that Studio Ghibli never has to pander to attention-deficit kids with a bunch of high-speed chases and fart jokes.
I believe that any Studio Ghibli creation absolutely blows American animated films out of the water–which is why Disney wishes to profit from the company, often at the expense of cultural accuracy. I won’t go into my loathing for Disney’s treatment of Studio Ghibli, especially with Academy Award-winning “Spirited Away,” but feel free to look up their conniving tactics.
That being said, I appreciate Disney for allowing English speakers the opportunity to witness Studio Ghibli’s beauty time and time again. However, once the DVD is released, I’ll be watching with subtitles because oftentimes the English voice actors’ dialogue doesn’t quite translate. At one point, Hara (voiced by Carol Burnett) noticing that Arrietty’s mother has escaped her clutches, yells, “Where is my LADY?!!” much to awkward laughs of the audience. But who knows? Maybe she screams that exact sentence in Japanese too, but I hope not.
Also, Disney, answer me this: Why must you change all the Japanese names? Do you think the U.S. is too stupid to understand cultural differences? Naming Sho as Shawn, Haru as Hara, and Sadako as Jessica may seem harmless, but for true fans it’s just unnecessary and insulting to the Japanese filmmakers.
It’s no surprise that Rotten Tomatoes gave this film a 93% rating. It’s an excellent tale of friendship and courage told in magnificent animated detail. If it’s playing at a theater near you, do yourself a favor and go see it. I haven’t read the novel it adapted, but let’s face it: If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then this Studio Ghibli piece of art speaks volumes.