Arrietty (voiced by Bridgit Mendler) shows us her Secret world. Meh.
THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY (Hiromasa Yonebayashi). 94 minutes. Opens Friday (February 17). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN
In The Secret World Of Arrietty, a Japanese animated adaptation of British novel The Borrowers dubbed with an American voice cast, the charm of Mary Norton's popular children's story has been lost in translation.
Bridgit Mendler voices the pixie-sized Arrietty, who lives under the floorboards of an old house outside Tokyo alongside her parents (Will Arnett and Amy Poehler). The family of "Borrowers" live off basic goods like sugar swiped covertly from the humans above. These step-by-step operations, where Arrietty and her father skip across nails and use duct tape to scale walls, are ingeniously and patiently rendered.
Unfortunately, Arrietty's adventure takes our patience for granted. The film's narrative rhythm is as flat as the hand-drawn cartoons, and the voice actors don't liven up the proceedings. A little more genuine fun and humour and less of Cécile Corbel's irritatingly sentimental folk songs could have gone a long way.
We expect more from the studio that brought us Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. Here, Miyazaki's regular animator, Hiromasa Yonebayashi directs, but his mentor's mystery and exoticism have been left somewhere beneath the floorboards.