Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Secret World of Arrietty on DVD

Sometimes movies are just beautiful, especially animation from Miyazaki and Japan's Studio Ghibli. That attention to detail in a hand-drawn world is utterly captivating. You don't want to look away for fear of missing something, and that something can be as simple as a droplet of water falling off a leaf. In the case of 2010's The Secret World of Arrietty, it is.

I confess, despite prior enjoyment of Miyazaki's films, I was reluctant to watch this one. I didn't love Ponyo like I do some of his others, so I wasn't sure I would like this storyline. (My husband tells me this is not strictly a Miyazaki film. Miyazaki is apparently only a writer on this one. Does it make any difference? He influenced and helped create it, right?)

Arrietty is a borrower, a little person who lives under the floor of the humans' house and borrows and survives on things the humans don't need. At fourteen years of age, she is old enough to go on borrowing trips with her dad. On her first trip, the new boy who's come to the house sees her, an occurrence that usually has grave consequences in the borrowers' world. Arrietty doesn't know what to do when this boy seems so intent on just being her friend.

The plot isn't complicated, but it's simply engaging. Part of the magic of this film is looking at all the detail that goes into creating a miniature house out of big human items. The story matters, yes, but the details add a fullness that isn't there in many American animated movies with fast-paced, seizure-inducing action.

Having said that, though, I think this movie appealed to me more than some of Miyazaki's others because it is so Western. There aren't weird monsters in it or foreign ideas and themes. It's based on a Western book, much like the other Miyazaki film I love so much: Howl's Moving Castle. This made it accessible to me while it still captured the peacefulness of Eastern culture.

In addition to being aesthetically beautiful, this movie's inner beauty shines in its values. Arrietty doesn't always follow all the rules, but she isn't at odds with her parents. When it matters most, she obeys them, which I appreciate. How many movies can you think of where the kids don't break all the rules and get congratulated for it?

The Secret World of Arrietty is rated G and much more appropriate for kids than some of the odder Miyazaki films. Whether you're a kid or an adult, this is an hour and a half well-spent. Four stars.

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