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IN SHORT: Overall, a delightful fantasy. [Rated PG. 102 minutes]
Director Luc Besson, who delivered one of the few fantasy films worth watching more than a few times with The Fifth Element has stretched to include fantastical animation in his newest film, Arthur and the Invisibles. The A-list cast -- there are far more than the three we listed above -- may have signed on because voice work is easier than having to show up on set every day, or that this is a great film to share with their kiddies, or that (maybe) they needed a good paying gig. It doesn't matter to us, Arthur and the Invisibles is a rollicking good adventure... one that shut up an theater packed with 4-6 year olds and shut 'em up good.
We mean that in the best sense. IF said kidlets had been bored senseless or confused beyond redemption, trust us, sitting in a theater packed with confused or bored 4 year olds is the last place any adult would want to be. We, old fart that we are, were thoroughly confused by the breakneck paced setup that drives the live action introductory scenes for the film. Once it settles down into 3D animation mode, we followed along most of the time. Any complaints about this section are fairly nit picky and we'll get to 'em in a paragraph or two.
It's been forty months since Arthur's grandfather Archibald (Ronald Crawford) disappeared from the tidy home kept by Grannie (Mia Farrow). Arthur's parental units (Penny Balfour and Doug Rand) are off in the big world, trying to find paying jobs stable enough to reunite them with their beloved kidlet. But there's no income coming in and Grannie is about to get the boot off her land by an evil money grubbing land developer (Adam Lefevre). Arthur, hearing stories of a cache of rubies hidden somewhere in the backyard -- Grandpa allegedly brought 'em back from Africa and buried 'em on the property. Grannie discounts the stories -- goes a'hunting for the stones. It helps that he encounters a band of Masai warriors led by a seven foot tall Chief (Jean Betote Njamba), who just happen to show up at the last moment and who clue him in to a whole 'nother, infinitely miniaturized world inhabited by tiny little creatures called Minimoys . . . they're just the same as regular moys, only mini. <vbg>
Yeah. Any adult with film student thought processes; those expecting a logical progression of story points is going to go ballistic to the negative. Arthur and the Invisibles, from this point out is a very simple tale and easy to follow. The confusion in the screenplay comes from, we guess, the compression of two prose books into the story seen here. That plus a translation from French hands to an English language-friendly package is done clumsily but, once you get to the animation portion of the film, things take off.
When Arthur arrives in this magical world he is immediately befriended by Betameche (Jimmy Fallon) and finds a wee bit of a rival in the princess, Selenia (Madonna). With a nod to the tales of King Arthur and his sword, Excalibur, our Arthur manages to free a sword the princess has been yanking at and thus a rivalry is formed. Not for long, however. Arthur's trip into this fantastic world has transformed him into a Minimoy himself and one the princess will eventually find an eye for. Duh.
The Minimoy universe is comprised of seven "lands," one of which is ruled by the evil Maltazard (David Bowie), his lackey Darkos (Jason Bateman) and a whole mess of evil sub-lackeys. Our trio of heroes is sent on a quest to find the hidden cache of rubies by The King (Robert de Niro) and from here on out the fantastical images and characters come flying fast and furiously. We couldn't begin to explain it all to you but, trust Cranky, it all makes sense and is tremendously fun to watch. Add to the cast of voices: Snoop Dogg, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Anderson, Chazz Palmintieri, Harvey Keitel -- knowing the usual work from most of these artists, we're guessing most wanted something suitable to show to their own children.
We're not going to try to lay out the entire story and characters for y'all on this one. We were too enchanted with the fantastical lands to worry all that much about details. That being said, and confessing to more than a passing love for things animated, we expect to be shelling out our own hard earned bucks to eventually add this film to our personal library.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Arthur and the Invisibles, he would have paid . . .
Luc Besson has a real knack for the fantastic and, while we could nitpick the heck out of this film -- pop over to Rotten Tomatoes and you'll find lots of complaints -- no, not this time. Cranky was enchanted.
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