Monday, December 15, 2008

Arthur and the Invisibles

I watched Arthur and the Invisibles over the weekend. The synopsis on this film made it sound like it might be age appropriate...geared towards my ten-year-old son’s age group. After watching this film, I would probably adjust that downward a bit, with ten being on the upper end of the spectrum for this film. The very basic plot and predictable writing make this film a simple straight-forward movie with very little for the adults that are watching it. All things considered, it wasn’t bad, but it was forgettable.

Arthur and the Invisibles tells the story of a boy named Arthur (Freddie Highmore), whose grandfather was an explorer in Africa. Arthur lives with his grandmother while his parents look for work in a larger city. His grandfather mysteriously turned up missing sometime before the movie begins. Arthur’s grandmother (Mia Farrow) has a developer attempting to foreclose on her property so he can build. The foreclosure is looming two days away. Arthur is determined to prevent the eviction and sets out decoding messages left by his grandfather. In the process, he discovers a secret portal to the land of the “Minimoys” a small African tribe that his grandfather relocated to the family’s backyard.

Arthur alerts the tribe to the pending development which will destroy their habitat. Arthur must find rubies that his grandfather entrusted to the care of the Minimoys, in order to prevent the pending foreclosure. In the process of finding the treasure, Arthur is joined by a Minimoy Princess Selenia (Madonna). Arthur and Selenia travel to the land of Necropolis, where the Evil M and his henchmen have their own plans for destroying the Minimoys (and where the treasure and Arthur’s grandfather also reside). In a race against the clock, the group must save the Minimoys from the Evil M, while preventing the foreclosure.

The storyline had some major flaws, which would probably not be considered by the younger audience that this film was geared towards. One of the issues I had was the fact that the developer was interested in a remote plot of land in the middle of nowhere. The entire premise of the foreclosure was a bit forced and seemed to create an artificial timeline that was difficult to swallow. The characters were also shallow, with no compelling attributes. This created minimal connection with the audience, making the entire performance forgettable. The pacing was good, moving along at a fast pace, with very little wasted effort. There was plenty of excitement written into the script although not much in the way of sub-plots. It also appeared that film borrowed elements from many other works. Some of those elements could have been changed slightly to make them fresh, but instead were left as obvious reminders that the script lacked originality. As a whole, the writing left a great deal of room for improvement.

Freddie Highmore spent half the movie as a real boy and the other half as an animated Minimoy. Highmore surprised me with his performance. Although the script was rather predictable, Highmore was convincing. There is one scene where Highmore has tears in his eyes, which did not appear to be put there during a cut. Highmore sold the emotion and did not overplay his hand. He is an outstanding young actor who will probably have plenty more movies in his future. Mia Farrow had a more limited role, but was delightful nonetheless. Although her character did not have much room for development, she was great. Snoop Dogg had a cameo voice over as a Rastafarian club owner…a fun diversion, but not much in the way of demonstrating his acting chops. Madonna provided the voice of Princess Selenia. I can’t stand Madonna, but her voice over performance was tolerable. Other voice animation included cameo’s by David Bowie (Evil M), Robert DeNiro (Princess Selenia’s father), Harvey Keitel, Jason Bateman and Emilio Estevez. The casting was strong, but having a long list of familiar names certainly doesn’t guarantee a hit.

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