Although Japanese animation tends to be amazing and bizarre in equal measure, The Secret World of Arrietty is surprisingly mainstream – doubtless because it’s based on a British story, features American voices, and has Japanese direction. The resulting movie avoids the problems that committees often present, delivering a coherent and charming entertainment that, while primarily aimed at younger children, has much to offer anyone who appreciates great artwork and good storytelling.
Arrietty is a “borrower,” a being four inches high who hides unseen in the houses of normal humans and filches tiny amounts of food and supplies in order to lead a comfortable parallel existence. Fourteen-year-old Arrietty lives with her mother and father, and has just been initiated into the art of borrowing by her father, who shows her how to use various pieces of climbing gear as they sneak through the walls of the house they have lived in for years. The house is owned by a kindly older woman who is looking after a young nephew named Sean, who has a heart condition and is awaiting surgery. Sean spots Arrietty out in the garden when he first arrives, and the two gradually develop a friendship, even though her hyper-cautious parents forbid it. Adding a dollop of menace and comic relief is a nasty housekeeper (Carol Burnett) who suspects that the house contains “little people” and hires exterminators on the sly.
Secret is marvelously drawn, from the flower-strewn garden to the realistic and highly decorated interiors. And without making a big deal of it, Arrietty is a brave and resourceful protagonist. (The sexual politics are much less progressive when it comes to her mother, voiced by Amy Poehler, who is a shrieking nervous Nelly.) The soundtrack is appealing, and the characters live in a strange hybrid world where people don’t exactly look Japanese and use both forks and chopsticks. Funny, touching and uninterested in delivering a sentimental ending, Secret is quite delightful. M
The Secret World of Arrietty ★★★½
Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong
G – 134 minutes
Continues at the Capitol & SilverCity
The entertainment is formulaic in This Means War, a bromantic comedy wherein two CIA agents go from being perfect partners to cranky competitors after they fall in love with the same woman. FDR (Chris Pine, Star Trek) is a shallow “player” while Tuck (Tom Hardy, Inception), divorced and a single dad, is rather earnestly looking for real love. After they meet Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) the race is on to win her heart. And for these top-tier agents that means deploying the latest surveillance spyware not only to find out the surest way to seduce the blonde hottie, but also to keep an eye on how the competition is doing.
Although the storyline wheezes predictably along, some of the touches are clever and often quite funny. The three leads are likable and good enough actors to invest their cardboard characters with touches of humanity. And because a violent subplot from the opening scene gradually develops into a life-or-death threat, the movie splits the difference between a chick flick and a guy-friendly action outing. This is precisely the sort of slick and shallow movie that audiences like and critics tend to despise. M
This Means War ★★½
Directed by McG
Starring Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Reese Witherspoon
PG-13 – 120 minutes
Continues at the Capitol, Westshore, & SilverCity
Sean Hoyne, one of Victoria’s most skilled brewmasters, has stepped away from Canoe Brewpub to start his own microbrewery. I haven’t worked my way through all four of his brand new beers yet, but can salute his malty and flavourful Hoyne Pilsner, which has way more Czech character than the bland pilsners brewed in North America. (And rumour has it that his Devil’s Dream IPA is scandalously good.) Bottoms up!