The Secret Life of Arrietty

The Secret Life of Arrietty

What She said:


Watching a good movie really is refreshing.  I mean like the first sip of an ice cold carbonated beverage on a blazingly hot summer day refreshing.  The Secret World of Arrietty is a just plain good movie. It reminds me of some of those subtly beautiful, yet strikingly simple cartoons from my childhood—visually splendid, but with a compelling story line, and real human emotions that give it true meaning.

The movie tells the story of 14-year-old Arrietty, and her mother and father.  They are all borrowers, tiny little people who live amongst normal sized humans basically stealing the items they need for survival.  They live by a strict code, “take only what you really need,” and so you won’t really feel like what they’re doing is wrong.  Afterall, what’s one sugar cube?

Arrietty’s life is turned upside-down when she encounters Shawn, a teenage boy who comes to stay at the English country house where Arrietty and fam is living.  Shawn is there for a rest, in preparation for open heart surgery that may or may not cure a defect that is slowly killing him.  His parents don’t seem to give a darn, and so he’s sent there by himself and falls under the care of the zany housekeeper Hara.  Shawn becomes entranced by Arrietty, and the thought of little people inhabiting the home.  The unlikely friendship that blossoms between Arrietty and Shawn is really beautiful, and yet it’s extremely dangerous, and so the borrower family has to consider their future and whether they should look for a new home. 

The Secret World of Arrietty is a return to classic 2-D hand painted animation, and it’s filled with breathtaking colors and pastoral scenes.  Every element of this seemly simplistic animation is well throughout, even a detail as small as how water droplets track down tiny Arrietty’s shoulder.  The animation is distinctly Japanese, but also not in-your-face or Pokemonish in any way.  And the storyline, which I’ve heard is based on an English book series called The Borrowers, is solid.  There’s a lot at stake for Arrietty, and yet you’ll share her curiosity as she cannot help but explore the possibility of friendship with a human.  There’s fear, anger, love, pain, and loss—some pretty heavy emotions for a children’s movie.

Which is why this movie may not appeal to all children.  Some kids will very easily attach to the characters at play, and Arrietty is a strong heroine.  But others will not find the on-screen content interesting enough, as one little girl behind me in the theater so boldly exclaimed when she whined, “Mom, I thought something was going to happen.”  Plenty is happening in this movie, it’s just whether or not kids will digest it all.  It’s much easier for them to engross themselves into singing and dancing animals.

For a child, teenager, or adult who has a great appreciation for animated films, The Secret World of Arrietty will be a delight.  You’ll feel glad that you were able to share in the story.

Thumbs way up.

What he said:


Arrietty is like any other teenager. She is young, but at the age where she is eager to get out and explore the world. She lives with her mother Homily and father Pod. She loves them very much, but is ready to become her own person. The difference between her and most other kids her age is that she’s about 4 inches tall. She is a borrower. Borrowers are tiny little people who live in small spaces inside our homes. They are scavengers. They “borrow” things from human beings and live off of what they find.  

Her parents fear they are the only borrowers left, so they are very protective of her. Arrietty (Bridgit Claire Mendler) has had enough though and ready to take part in her first “borrowing” (the act of going out and gathering supplies). Her father (voiced by Will Arnett) finally agrees that it is time. Her mother (voiced by Amy Poehler) is a nervous wreck about the whole thing. In fact, her mother is a pretty nervous person in general and Amy Poehler’s voice work shows that wonderfully.

Arrietty’s first adventure is a memorable one. While on her first mission with her father, she is seen by a young boy named Shawn; who is staying there in an attempt to improve his health. Shawn is a very sick boy and is scheduled for some surgery. His mother thinks it is best if he goes out to the countryside and gets some much needed rest before the surgery.  This countryside home is her childhood home and current home of her sister Jessica.

Shawn is immediately intrigued by these little people living in the depths of the house. Who wouldn’t be? Arrietty is also curious about Shawn, but her father tells her to stay away from him. He says the beings – which is what borrowers call normal sized people – are dangerous and would not allow borrowers to live their lives if discovered.  Arrietty must then decided to respect her parent’s wishes or give into her curiosity.

This is an absolutely wonderful little movie. I was totally captivated by it. For the first time in a while, I was completely engrossed in a movie. There is some genuine movie magic going on here. It takes you back to a time in your life where you yearn for adventure. I don’t mean the kind of adventure you get from traveling or going to a new restaurant.  I’m talking about going to a world that only a good book or movie can take you to. I think I smiled ear-to-ear the entire movie. It was simply a fun experience.

This may not be for young kids (maybe not enough happening for them), but an older child or even adult will definitely appreciate it.

This is also a very good looking movie. It’s nice to see some hand-drawn animation for a change. I realize that’s not the popular choice nowadays, but I’m glad it still exists in some way. I am not against CGI animation, but I’d like to see more of a balance to be honest with you. There’s not enough hand-drawn cartoons in this world right now.

Oh and before I forget, I also have to give some credit to Carol Burnett too. I can’t remember the last time I saw anything with her in it. She brings a lot of humor to her role as the caretaker Hara.

Diagnosis: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on February 28, 2012.