Monday, September 23, 2013

Movie Review: The Secret Life of Arrietty

My life has been a bit fuller than usual lately and that, coupled with the two hour hissy fit my computer threw this morning, is why this is so late, guess I need to start writing reviews on off days as well to build up a buffer huh. As for why I watched this film, it's Miyazaki, I think my anime nerd card would be taken away if I wasn't at least interested by all the Studio Ghibli films that come out. Although, after Ponyo I wasn't in a big hurry to see this film but at least the reviews for it I had already seen were more positive.

The Secret World of Arrietty

Summary: Arrietty and her parents are borrowers, little people who live in the walls of houses and take just what they need from the humans around them. Their lives aren't filled with rules but they do have some including the big one, never be seen by the humans lest they have to move to hide away from them again. For many years they've succeeded and lived happily but when Arrietty begins to venture out into the world she's seen by the homeowners young, sick nephew and they form an odd friendship. 

The Good: I can now safely and easily say that I enjoyed this more than Ponyo and where I would say that Ponyo is a children's film (that is, enjoyable to one age group and not so much to everyone outside of it) Arrietty felt more like a family film (something for everyone that you might want to watch again later) which I think is a great thing. The story was not too simple nor complex, I liked how the characters interacted, it of course looked stunning, and flowed nicely as well. There wasn't anything that particularly stood out to me but I was glad that I had finally seen it and it made me a bit excited again for all the other Ghibli films I haven't seen yet.

The Bad: Like all Studio Ghibli adaptations this one isn't terribly similar to The Borrowers books that I remember (although that would be nearly 14 years ago now) and that wouldn't have bothered me as much except that I remembered after the film that Arrietty and her family don't live by themselves in the house, they live with a good sized extended family and have relatives in the nearby neighborhood as well. This isn't the case in the film and one of the subplots is the three of them wondering, in a bit of a gloomy way, if they might be the only ones left which makes it feel like the movie took bits and pieces of the original setting and then left out others in order to create conflict which feels lazy to me. Other than that, the only part of the film I really didn't like was just how crazy Haru the housekeeper went by the end trying to prove the borrowers were real, honestly I started wondering if it was the end of a long day where everyone in the recording studio was tired and they went "ehhh, leave it in!" since it was so incongruous with the earlier parts of the film.

The Production Values: While lovely I am a bit confused by the setting of the film, there are Japanese esque things (tatami mats, sliding doors) right next rather English looking things (the outside architecture of the house) and I wondered if the setting was as confused as I am about it really was*. Whatever it was it was pretty, I just couldn't tell if it was supposed ot be an homage to the story's roots or not. As for the voice acting, I saw this film with my mom and told her to choose what language to see it in so we went with the English dub and mostly I was okay with it. I did feel like Sho/Shawn was a bit too subdued in places, my mom disagreed saying that since he had a heart condition it was expected that he would sound very monotone and would be trying not to get upset, I said that his actions didn't match up with the tone of voice and felt odd as a result, I regret not checking out the Japanese dub for those parts later on to see if it was the same there.

In the end I'm giving this movie a three out of five, well made and without any large problems but it didn't grab me the way some of the past films had and it'll be a while before I feel like rewatching it and I doubt I'll ever buy a copy for myself. But again, there's nothing wrong with it, I just feel like Studio Ghibli is past it's magical peak and since I saw those films first few will ever compare to them for me.

*when I was glancing at tvtropes I even saw something about how some scenery had been flipped around, from how it actually looks in Japan, to make it resemble America more or something which I rather doubt since America never crossed my mind, I'd love to see a source or even someone who honestly thought that.

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