Say Hello To My Little Friend

Given how young the new year is (and how busy I've been at work), I'm pretty impressed with the amount of pop culture I've already been able to get into. January and February are usually the time of year that I hurriedly catch up on stuff I missed that may become noteworthy come awards season. My friend just acquired a bunch of the Hayao Miyazaki movies, and since I'd never gotten around to seeing The Secret World of Arietty last year, he kindly offered to bring it over and watch it with me while we buzzed along on post-new-year mimosas.

The English dub was released in America in 2012, but it debuted in Japan in 2010. Based on the English novel The Borrowers, it's about a sickly boy who is staying with his elderly aunt in order to get some rest and relaxation before heart surgery. While there, he discovers a family of "borrowers" (tiny people who steal little things they think won't be missed), and strikes up a friendship with the daughter, Arietty. Things get complicated when the cuckoo-pants housekeeper also discovers the miniscule family, and attempts to trap them.

The US cast is an odd mix. All is well and good with the adults, who are voiced by Amy Poehler, Will Arnett, and Carol Burnett. For the kids, parent company Disney shoehorned in a bunch of Disney Channel tweens. I worried that American teens wouldn't really capture the tone of a Japanese film well, but unlike the woefully-miscast Cyrus girl of Ponyo, the kids here are pretty adept.

This is a very quiet film, nowhere near the grand, sweeping scale of other Miyazaki movies like Howl's Moving Castle and Spirited Away. But that's a good thing. The friendship between Shawn and Arietty is a very fragile one, and the gentle tone and pensive music help create an overall experience of a transient experience in the day of two vastly different people that winds up having a life-long impact on both of them.

The Secret World of Arietty: B


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