I’m quite a fan of Studio Ghibli films, particularly those done by Hayao Miyazaki. This, however, is one of four from the company not directed by Miyazaki. It also happens to be an adaptation of a material that’s been adapted quite a few times (one of which was a live action version just the end of last year), the most commonly known being from 1997 and starring John Goodman, as well as Harry Potter alums Jim Broadbent, Mark Williams, and (strangely enough) Tom Felton. That one was kind of a flop… so what about this one? (Note: Of the three primary voice casts, I watched the one with the American cast.)
We follow the Clock family–Pod (Will Arnett), Homily (Amy Poehler), and Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler)–a race of four-inch-tall people called Borrowers. Arrietty is about to turn 14 and is about to perform her first borrowing… when she’s seen by a human named Shawn (David Henrie). Shawn has just come to stay in this country house to rest up for a little while, staying with a woman named Hara (Carol Burnett). Arrietty tries to keep her distance, but as time goes on and she continues speaking with Shawn, more and more things seem to go wrong, and their relationship threatens the home life of the Clock family.
First and foremost, as with most Ghibli films, the animation is gorgeous. Even with a first time director, the film, I think, looks great and does not disappoint. Also on a more technical level, the soundtrack is quite nice. Some of it is your standard pop fare, but there are some really nice pieces throughout. So on the sight and sound level, this movie really excelled. Well… except one area.
Normally you can be pretty safe listening to a dubbing of a Ghibli film. I hadn’t come across one yet where I felt the American dub took away from the overall experience of the film. At least, not until now. I didn’t watch another version, but this wasn’t the strongest voice cast they could have gotten. I know Pod is supposed to be wise and stoic, but Will Arnett just seemed… bored. His voice was monotone, and nothing about the performance was all that inspiring. And David Henrie wasn’t far off as Shawn. Bridgit Mendler was fine as Arrietty, though I honestly would have preferred the UK casting, I think–Saoirse Ronan as Arrietty and Mark Strong as Pod. If I get the chance to check this out again on DVD or Blu-Ray, I’ll either check out the original Japanese or the UK voice cast instead.
The film as a whole was a fun little adventure. The story was heart warming, and the relationship between Arrietty and Shawn was nicely built. I loved how they only gave little clues as to why Shawn was at the house for about half the film. It was the subtly of things like that in the film that really worked for it–and confused me when they tossed in stilted, unnecessary dialogue every now and then that would give you direct exposition. But on the whole, it was a finely made film. If you’re a fan of Ghibli films, this one shouldn’t disappoint. It’s not perfect, but it’s a pleasant addition to the studio’s pantheon.