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4 out of 5

by Tim

The Secret World of Arrietty is based upon The Borrowers, a 1952 novel by English author Mary Norton.  In this animated telling of the classic story, Arrietty (voiced by Bridgit Mendler) is a tiny person who lives in the nooks and crannies of a house with her mother and father.  They live off of “borrowing” belongings of regular-sized humans in order to make a life for themselves.  Items you may not even notice are gone… such as a cube of sugar from the pantry, a fishing hook from a tackle box, and a strand of string from a sewing kit.  These borrowed items allow the tiny people to eat, hunt, explore and live.        

In this story, Arrietty runs into her first human boy, a sick young man on the verge of death.  A strong bond between this boy and Arrietty form.  This truly is a great story of friendship – it shows that friends can come from any place and can come from any form of background.       

This is a Studio Ghibli production, and if you don’t know anything about Studio Ghibli – then you are honestly depriving yourself from pure animated art at its finest.  As an American, I have grown up on Walt Disney animated features.  It wasn’t until around the year Spirited Away came out that I stumbled into another dimension of hand-drawn animation.  Studio Ghibli still hand draws/animates their movies, and each scene is breathtaking and inspiring.  They spend so much time on detail, and The Secret World of Arrietty is no different.  They truly captured the atmosphere and made you feel two inches tall throughout the entire movie.  The world they drew and created is mesmerizing.       

The voice acting (in the American version) is incredible.  When Disney releases these in theaters or on Blu-ray/DVD, they don’t tamper with the animation.  Which means the American voice actors have to mimic the mouth movements on the screen, which can be very tricky to do… especially since the Japanese and American languages are so different.  Bridgit Mendler (Arrietty) and David Henrie (Shawn) may have derived from Disney Channel shows, but they truly show their voice acting chops as the two lead characters.        

If you are a Studio Ghibli fan, such as myself, you may expect magic or other fairytale elements to be featured in this movie… that isn’t the case.  Studio Ghibli may have created two of the best animated movies of all time (Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle), but they are more than that.  Sometimes they venture far from their roots and explore some dramatic elements as well.  So if you are expecting movies such as Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, you may be a little disappointed or bored.  If I had to compare this movie with another Ghibli film, I would have to say it is more comparable to Whisper of the Heart.      

Arrietty is not filled with a lot of funny laugh out loud parts, there is no magic or mythical creatures wandering the Earth.  It’s just a great animated movie about true friendship.