'The Secret World of Arrietty' Review: Animated Delight Could Spark New, Inventive Franchise

English author Mary Norton’s 1952 fantasy novel “The Borrowers” has been adapted a number of times over the years, mainly for TV. But it’s hard to imagine any previous version of the tale being more lustrously fashioned than “The Secret World of Arrietty,” the new animated feature from Japan’s Studio Ghibli.

Anime master Hayao Miyazaki, who co-founded Ghibli 27 years ago, has been globally celebrated for writing and directing such singular films as “Princess Mononoke” and “Howl’s Moving Castle”; his 2001 Spirited Away surprisingly won an Oscar–a rare achievement for a foreign-language production.

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Miyazaki co-wrote the script for “Arrietty,” but turned over the direction to a younger Ghibli animator, Hiromasa Yonebayashi. The result, while not as gloriously eccentric as Howl’s Moving Castle, is a magical classic distinguished by its intricate staging and an Impressionist interplay of sunlight and rural greenery that’s a joy to behold. This is a great kids’ movie, but, as usual with Ghibli films, it’s not in any way just for kids.

Norton’s narrative has been reconfigured a bit, but is unchanged in essence. At its center are the Borrowers, a family of “little people” (maybe three inches tall) who live in the recesses of a large country house otherwise inhabited by a lone human (or “Bean,” as the tiny squatters say), an old woman named Jessica (voiced in English by Gracie Poletti). The Borrowers–father Pod (Will Arnett), mother Homily (Amy Poehler), and their daughter Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler)–have made a cozy home for themselves within a pile of bricks in the basement, venturing out at night to “borrow” the staples they need: a pin, a tissue, maybe a cookie. The rule by which they live is never to borrow anything that will be missed by the Beans.

Read the full review at Reason.com