ARTHUR AND THE INVISIBLES
Ten year old Arthur's (Freddie Highmore) grandfather (Ronald Crawford) disappeared four years ago, and he's been cared for by his grandma (Mia Farrow) while his parents are often away. Grandpa left behind his notebooks in which Arthur uncovers stories about the Minimoys - little people who are invisible to the naked eye. He finds the hidden message that catapults him on an adventure in his own back yard. Magically transformed into a Minimoy, he has just three days to help rescue the Minimoys' kingdom from the evil Wizard Maltazard (voice of David Bowie), win the heart of Princess Selenia (voice of Madonna) and get back in time to save the old house.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Somewhere between cute and weird, Arthur and the Invisibles tries to be too many things in a frantic bid to be uber-creative, young, hip and relevant, expecting its technological prowess to be heartwarming as well as impressive. The tone is badly misjudged.
The Minimoys live in a microscopic world under the large Connecticut garden of an old home; the Minimoys are the cute ones, while other creatures are weird, or ugly or both. But the film begins in the real world of young Arthur (Freddie Highmore) whose engineer grandpa went missing four years earlier, and his parents are away so often he is cared for by his loving grandma (Mia Farrow). So far so good, as much is made of grandpa's inventions and knowledge.
Once we are transported into Minimoy-world, and Arthur becomes a wildly white haired, orange eyed one of them, the film begins to wobble off course. The animation is clever and inventive, but it fails to connect the voices to credible characters. There is conflict in voice styles, too, from David Bowie's gravitas-laden English with its doomsday overtones as the evil Maltazard, to Robert De Niro's throaty Bronx-ism as the King, and Madonna's feisty New Yorker as Princess Selenia - who, by the way, sounds rather too old as a potential first romance for a 10 year old boy.
The screenplay is fussy and wordy and sometimes derivative (small talk between ugly bad dudes, a Star Wars inspired aerial fight & flight sequence, Arthur and the sword with magic powers, for example), and the tone of the film is far too old for its 8 - 12 year old target market, while being too young for anyone older.
The good things in the film include all the performances of the live action cast, the spectacular production design and the sense of a fairy tale period somewhere between the 40s and 50s in semi rural America, complete with the sensibilities of the folks around, from the grubby developer trying to take the old home, to the friendly cops.
It's a fascinating work for film students who could learn from its mistakes, and for anyone with a couple of hours to spare who'd like to spend it in a fantasy world rich in textures, strange creatures - and a happy ending.
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ARTHUR AND THE INVISIBLES (PG)
Arthur et les Minimoys
CAST: Freddie Highmore, Mia Farrow, Penny Balfour, Doug Rand, Ron Crawford
VOICES: Madonna, David Bowie, Snoop Dogg, Robert De Niro, Emilio Estevez, Jimmy Fallon, Harvey Keitel, Chazz Palmentieri
PRODUCER: Luc Besson, Emmanuel Prevost
DIRECTOR: Luc Besson
SCRIPT: Luc Besson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Thierry Arbogast, Dominique Delguste
MUSIC: Eric Serra
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Hugues Tissandier
RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 11, 2007