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The Secret World of Arrietty
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3½ Stars - Good
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Directed By
Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Run Time
1 hour 34 minutes
Cast
Moises Arias, Bridgit Mendler, David Henrie, Will Arnett
Theatre Release
February 17, 2012 by Walt Disney Pictures and Studio Ghibli

The Secret World of Arrietty is a celebration of the vibrant life surging all around us—a declaration of the countless stories being told all at once. The rich pen-and-ink animation is full of depth and essence. This colorful, layered world promises a story under every leaf and life behind every wall. Cats, crows, and the scampering bugs who gently touch each other's antennae have their own vignettes, suggesting full lives that the camera could follow if it so chose. This message is clear: At any moment, unnoticed in our human hustle and bustle, life is telling thousands of stories.

The movie, too, has an interesting story; Arrietty is the American translation of a Japanese film adapted from an English book. Forty years ago, acclaimed Japanese animator and director Hayao Miyazaki (best known in the U.S. for Oscar-winner Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle and Ponyo) first thought of animating Mary Norton's 1952 story The Borrowers. But it was not until 2008 that he revisited the idea, wrote the script and handed it to a first-time director at Miyazaki's legendary Studio Ghibli. Released in Japan in 2010, it was the year's top grossing film, seen by more than 12 million viewers, and won Animation of the Year award. Now, Arrietty has been translated, dubbed by an American cast, and distributed stateside by Walt Disney Pictures.

The movie—a more linear, less fantastical Miyazaki film than past projects—begins with the arrival of 12-year-old Shawn (voice of David Henrie) to his aunt's country home to rest his ailing heart. Like many children in Miyazaki's films, the sickly Shawn is able to see things that adults seem to miss—namely the tiny people, maybe 3 inches tall, who live under the floorboards. They ...

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