Entries Comments

Movie Review: Arthur and the Invisibles

Arthur and the Invisibles
Written and directed by Luc Besson based on his books
Weinstein Company

Arthur and the Invisibles had a qualifying Oscar run in December, only to be disqualified from the Best Animated Feature race because it didn’t have enough animated footage compared to live action.  They needn’t have worried, though, because this had no chance against all the other stuff that came out last year anyway.

Luc Besson has always had a teenager’s mentality when it comes to his action films.  The Professional, La Femme Nikita, and especially The Fifth Element (which he wrote at 15) are fun, often over-the-top vehicles that embody the spirit of popcorn filmmaking; movies you can watch over and over again and not worry about the flaws.

Besson tries his hand at the kiddie popcorn flick here with Arthur and the Invisibles.  Arthur (Freddie Highmore) lives in his grandparents’ country house with Granny (Mia Farrow) while his parents (Penny Balfour and Doug Rand) have been looking for work in the city, missing his tenth birthday.  His grandfather has been away “to Africa,” Granny’s way of keeping the fantastical truth from Arthur: he’s actually underground in another world.

The house is in trouble; collectors are coming by and asking for exorbitant dues and another man needs payment in 48 hours or the house belongs to him.  Arthur figures out that his granfather has left him clues on how to get to the fantasy world, and there lies a treasure that can help save the day.  He follows the steps and then…everything becomes animated, and he interacts with the Minimoys, a small group of people and creatures who stand for peace and harmony.

Arthur warns The King (Robert De Niro) of the danger above and sends Princess Selenia (Madonna) and her brother Betameche (Jimmy Fallon) to the lair of the evil Maltazard (David Bowie), where the treasure lies.  Maltazard, like all big villains, wants to rule the world…at least, the underground.

Besson again shows over-the-top inventiveness, even though the movie can be a mess during action scenes, especially since the animation isn’t high caliber.  A bad sign is when you can name a ton of movies that one movie steals from, like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, or A Bug’s Life and Antz, not to mention a bit of Sword in the Stone.  So those uninitiated with the films before it will find themselves in a truly unique world.

It’s mostly entertaining, though.  And kids should have a good time.


Comment from Jonathan Watkins
Time: January 12, 2007, 1:44 pm

I have never understood Luc Besson’s appeal. And if you listen to a lot of film geeks out there they give him a lot more credit than you do; they make it out to seem like the guy is the fucking holy grail of French filmmaking. Like you said, at best his films are mildly entertaining, but most of the time, for me, they’re just snooze fests. “The Messenger,” “Leon: The Professional,” and “La Femme Nikita” all have a few moments but are mostly just a bore to sit through. “The Fifth Element” is quite a bit of fun, but in the end and upon multiple viewings you realize the film has nothing below the surface going for it. And there is all this talk about his next film, “Angel-A,” which I believe is coming out in a couple of months, is supposedly going to be his last. You would think they actually had a press conference or something with as much talk as it is raising. And I look at this as I look at all of the Brett Favre retirement talk at the end of every year, I don’t give a shit, especially when we’re talking about the fate of a mediocre director/writer; aren’t there enough out there to make up for his abscence? Michael Bay is still around isn’t he?

Comment from Lori
Time: January 12, 2007, 6:14 pm

I appreciate Luc Besson for what he’s always tried to do, even though none of his movies are favorites of mine. But I have to say…this one just doesn’t interest me at all. But I think that has more to do with just having OD’d on CG animation, than Besson himself.

Comment from The Projectionist
Time: January 12, 2007, 8:24 pm

I know what you mean. Pixar’s latest, Ratatouille is coming out in the summer, and I can only expect great things from it. But now even they have started to look like everything else, and this is so much like last year’s Flushed Away, that even Pixar is having trouble making me get excited. The flood came last year, and since animation is something that takes a long time, none of the lessons we learned from an overcrowded market last year are going to help this year, as we expect another onslaught of cute animals, more penguins even (Surf’s Up), and probably some more really cheaply produced stuff after the success of Hoodwinked last year.

Comment from Lori
Time: January 13, 2007, 11:21 am

You’re exactly right…there are just so many CG flicks out there that all look the same, that even the great storytellers and fine animators at Pixar can’t get me into the theater anymore. Only Aardman continues to capture my attention these days, but even they couldn’t hook me with ‘Flushed Away.’

But I must say too, that I suppose I still have some personal bile to spew at the studios for deciding to outsource and CG every friggin’ animated flick they do. It was that decision that drove my husband (and thousands of other talented artists) out of the business and effectively killed traditional animation in this country. So I suppose I just automatically react negatively toward CG stuff.

I hear now through the rumor mill that Disney’s restarting its traditional animation house due to Pixar’s John Lasseter’s influence. Of course, whether or not it’s really true or whether or not it would really take is another thing entirely. But it would be so nice to see a return to good-quality, hand-drawn animation.

Sorry to go off there…don’t mean to get all rant-y.

Comment from The Projectionist
Time: January 13, 2007, 8:15 pm

Rant on, Lori. I’m glad we have The Simpsons coming out this summer. At least they still do traditional animation, which I miss, and they even make fun of the 3-D craze in their latest trailer.

It’s interesting you bring up Disney because they must have laid off the bulk of the world’s animators. With the death of traditional animation, and then trying to start their own 3-D unit when Pixar’s contract was running out, only to have them come back, negating the need, they must have let go of a lot of people over the past decade.

Comment from Lori
Time: January 14, 2007, 11:38 am

Well, the Mouse House has always been the main focus of the animation biz, certainly. But there were quite a few other houses operating at the time of the—what would you call it—shift in trend, I guess. A lot of folks (like my husband) were at WB Feature Animation working on stuff like ‘Iron Giant’ and ‘Osmosis Jones,’ and Dreamworks and Sony all had their own units for a while, too. So things were okay for a while for the traditional animators, because they didn’t all have to depend on Disney.

But then that all went to hell. One by one, they all started closing up. My husband managed to survive longer than most because he also had storyboarding experience, so he was able to go back to TV animation where he started, doing board work (because that’s all the artwork that gets done here). And then the company-wide layoffs at Disney went through, I remember when that happened, I was working there at the time. Every department lost staff, but yeah, their feature animation unit became a ghost town. And as far as I know, that ridiculous-looking building of theirs on the lot is still a big, empty space. I suppose if the Lasseter rumor is true, then hand-drawn might make a comeback. There are always one or two places that still do it (mostly) old school, like Aardman and I suppose ‘The Simpsons’ (by whatever company name they’re calling themselves now—but they outsource the majority of their work as well).

But I still worry that CG is now the way of things, for EVERYTHING, and that the studios are too used to it now to go back to the harder effort of and probably greater cost of traditional animation. I worry that it really is a dead art.

Comment from Javier Delgado
Time: August 25, 2007, 5:01 am

Unfortunatelly the grown ups could have enjoyed this film (in the US) if the Weinsteins had not cut the original to a “kids safe version”. I saw the film, here in Mexico and enjoyed it a lot, along with my family, but reading the US critics review, i found we did not saw the same film as was exhibited in the US.

It seems since Maddonas giving voice to a ten years old princess in love to a ten year old kid, something wrong happened. The love story, the kisses, the marriage, all this was cut, because it became inapropiate. Meanwhile, outside the US the film was complete and it was a hit, and already the two sequels are in the making.

If you can, try to see the international DVD edition, so the grown up, also could enjoy this film.

Comment from The Projectionist
Time: August 26, 2007, 9:37 am

Interesting. I was unaware of that. I might have to check that out someday.

Write a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.