Short on surprises
By Marty Clear
Published January 11, 2007
A few years ago, Arthur and the Invisibles might have seemed like a worthwhile film, or at least an interesting one.
Director Luc Besson La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element, who also wrote the books on which Arthur and the Invisibles is based, has assembled an appealing cast and injected a soupcon of charm and wonder into the first quarter of this film.
But that long opening segment, about a boy (Freddie Highmore) and his grandmother (Mia Farrow) desperately trying to save their home from foreclosure, turns out to be a prelude to a muddled animated adventure that is a stultifying bore.
It might not seem so dreadful if we hadn't been treated to so many stunning animated films recently. The animation in this film is unexceptional and the story falls limp.
It used to be fun to try to guess the big-name celebrities who voice these animated films. But now, despite the presence of Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Snoop Dogg, Madonna and David Bowie, even that amusing little diversion has grown stale.
The live-action segment gives us Highmore (Finding Neverland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as Arthur, a kid obsessed with the adventures and the journals of his long-absent grandfather, who wrote of rubies he hid and a tiny race of people he discovered.
As ruthless developers (are there any other kind?) are about to take over Arthur's home, he finds encrypted messages left by Grandpa that indicate the tiny people live in Arthur's back yard. And they know where the rubies are hidden.
With the help of African tribesmen who magically appear, Arthur shrinks to join the tiny people (called Minimoys) and find the rubies to buy back the home.
The Minimoys are animated, and it might have been fun to have a live-action Arthur romp through the cartoon world, but Arthur becomes an animated character when he shrinks.
The story devolves into a familiar extended battle with the good Minimoys trying to help mini-Arthur retrieve the rubies from an evil Minimoy, voiced by Bowie. It ends up a cross between Lord of the Rings and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, without the grandeur of the former or the amiability of the latter.
Despite a couple of good performances by Highmore and Bowie, there is nothing for adults. On the other hand, Arthur and the Invisibles is inoffensive, and younger kids might find it passably entertaining. But they would probably prefer re-watching videos of any of the dozens of superior animated adventures from recent years.Marty Clear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Arthur and the Invisibles
Marty Clear's grade: C-
Chase Shiflet's grade: C-
Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Freddie Highmore, Mia Farrow, David Bowie, Madonna, Robert De Niro
Screenplay: Luc Besson
Rating: PG; fantasy action and brief suggestive material
Running time: 102 min.
[Last modified January 10, 2007, 10:06:39]
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