Arthur and the Invisibles **
There's no doubt that "Arthur and the Invisibles" is a cute and entertaining little children's flick, but it doesn't exactly have the push to make it memorable. I saw this film today, and I don't have much recollection of it all, and there are even a few plot devices that I don't remember either. And although it did have some moments of pure entertainment, I just can't see it being honored in a few years as a great animated film. I bet once February and March rolls along, it'll be out of the minds of kids everywhere. The Weinstein Company gave this a special one week only run during the last week of December in LA for an Oscar consideration run, but they didn't need to bother(ironically they didn't really need to bother, because just last week this was ruled ineligible for Oscar running. It didn't have enough animation to be put in the category). Director Luc Besson is a very well known French director who often likes to explore various different genres. Taking a look at his previous films-including "The Fifth Element," and "Leon"-it may be a bit of a shock to see that this was his next project. Shocker! An innocent children's flick. Well. . . maybe not that innocent.
"Arthur and the Invisibles" is told with two stories. It starts off live action, introducing us to ten year old Arthur. Today is Arthur's birthday, and he spends the morning sifting through old books that his grandfather had-including blue prints of his inventions. Arthur lives with his grandmother, as his parents live in the city in a quest to find better jobs. Arthur gets the bad news that his parents won't be able to see him on his tenth birthday, and to make matters worse he learns that a man is taking his grandmother's house unless of course his grandfather-Archibald-could sign a paper and pay a certain amount of money. And the man is coming in two days to take the house. It seems like an easy fix-all they have to do is get his grandfather to come and sign a simple document. But it is much more difficult than that, as Arthur's grandfather has been missing for years in a jungle looking for a pile of rubies. Arthur knows that the rubies are in his backyard somewhere, and he follows a list of instructions in his grandfather's room that tell him how to get to the Land of the Minimoys(which enters us into the animated section)-a group of tiny little elf like creatures that live in the garden. Arthur ends up shrinking to their size, and is told that he must finish the mission that his grandfather started years ago. The mission to the help the Minimoys against the evil M. . . . and the rest of his name is too horrible to fully say(now does that sound like something familiar?) Arthur heads off with the beautiful princess Selenia, who is turning one thousand in a few days, and the adorable little Betamache, the two hundred and ninety nine year old boy who is almost a grownup, to stop the evil M and restore peace to the land of the Minimoys-as well as find the stack of rubies to help his grandmother buy off the contractors.
Oddly enough, there were a few things that I couldn't exactly follow in the storyline, which is strange because it's a children's movie. Besson seems to leave out some things, and he cuts a lot of scenes short before there could be some decent development. I didn't exactly get the full story of the rubies, and then I got lost a little more when the evil M was explaining what made him so evil. My interest was fading from time to time. The animation is amusing to look at, but it is uninspired, and looks like every single so-so animated film has looked for the past few years. I was hoping that the Land of the Minimoys would look a little more incredible-I was even hoping to look in the background for some small detail/visual puns. But considering that Besson too the opportunity to create his own world with its own history, background, etc, I'll give him a little bit of credit. It is probably more difficult making a film about a bunch of creatures that don't exist, as opposed to giving a bunch of robots their own city. The animated Arthur counterpart looks nothing like the live action one, and they didn't even look like they were trying. Arthur is complete with a few inches more and sleek white hair that sticks out in all directions. And the Princess character looked a little too sexually suggestive for a movie like this-complete with a rather large bust and a pair of jeans that are far too tight. I wonder if that's just the French portions of the film shining through. . .
The voice casting is a little questionable, and I have the feeling that the studio didn't trust the film enough which made them get the urge to get people like Robert De Niro to splash over the advertisements. The two best talents were not De Niro, as the King, or Harvey Keitel, but they ended up being David Bowie and Jimmy Fallon. Bowie I knew played the bad guy, and it played it to perfection. The evil M was a slimey little creature, and Bowie's prim and proper English accent made it the perfect mesh of sinister and imaginative. And oddly enough, Jimmy Fallon was the perfect choice for Beta, my personal favorite character. I bet Beta would be classified by many as the annoying sidekick who gets in the way, but he was adorable and his constant smiling puts a smile on my face as of this writing-Fallon did it well, and I didn't even realize that it was him until about halfway. There is one thing that confuses me a bit. Fallon and De Niro and Bowie were all overdubbing the original French version, which gets me to wonder how the original film in France played the live action scenes. I'm sure that Freddie Highmore and Mia Farrow don't speak fluent French, and none of their lines seems overdubbed, so I can't place my finger on how they managed this. It's easy to change the language on an animated character, but somewhat more on a live action one. I guess I'd need to see some kind of making of special.
"Arthur and the Invisibles" does have a few moments, and it keeps your interest, but it is another entry into the animated film dud festival. There is nothing very memorable about it at all, and it being ineligible for the Oscar will probably make about zero difference. I suppose the kids will enjoy it, even though it is a bit confusing, but some of the animated adventures are amusing, and you really could probably do worse. This is the first new film I saw in 2007, and I hope that it isn't a sign of things to come.