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August 9th, 2006:
Arthurís (Freddie Highmore
) grandfather disappeared suddenly about four years ago, leaving Arthurís grandmother (Mia Farrow
) at the mercy of bill collectors. A real estate developer is eagerly hoping to take possession of grandmaís home, but Arthur is determined to find a solution. Buried in the pages of grandpaís notebooks are enchanting stories of treasures and adventures. During his travels, grandpa somehow stumbled onto the Minimoys, a tribe of miniature people who are less than one inch tall. As unbelievable as it may seem, they are real and Arthur finds that out for himself when he uncovers a hidden clue that leads him into their incredible world. Now, shrunken down to their size, he ventures into a universe full of dangers and intrigues that he never thought could have existed. He soon encounters the beautiful, but rebellious Princess Selenia (Madonna
) and her inventive little brother Betameche. Together, they must trek to the Forbidden City ruled by the nefarious Maltazard (David Bowie
), who Arthur now believes may be holding his grandfather captive. They will try to defeat the tyrant and recover the treasure that can save Arthurís grandmother.What to Expect:
For director Luc Besson
, who has crafted some of the most stylish thrillers in the past two decades, Arthur and the Invisibles is a strange choice for a final hurrah. During the early stage of his career, the cult filmmaker announced that he would only direct 10 films and then retire forever. He still has Angel-A scheduled to release in September of 2006 in the States, but after the likes of La Femme Nikita, The Professional, and The Fifth Element he has chosen this digitally animated family feature as his tenth and final project. Article continues below
Oddly enough, Arthur and the Invisibles is based on a series of childrenís books written by Besson himself. So far he has released two novels: Arthur and the Minimoys and Arthur and the Forbidden City. Since the storyline in Arthur and the Minimoys ends quite abruptly and is later concluded in Arthur and the Forbidden City, Besson, who will not be making any sequels, is likely to combine the two into one film.
The books have become bestsellers in France, but have met with their share of criticism. They have been described as convoluted and disorganized and Bressonís language has been labeled as awkward. While his inexperience as a writer has received some negative scrutiny, his inventiveness with the story remains praised. As a result, there is a possibility that the books may translate much better to a medium that Bresson is more familiar with.
At first glance, there are no bankable name actors on the list, but the cast does feature a unique assortment of celebrities. Freddie Highmore has secured himself a remarkable career as a childhood star with substantial parts in Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You can also catch him playing a younger version of Russell Crowe
in the upcoming lightweight drama A Good Year
. Mia Farrow, who had a bit of a comeback with an eerie role in the recently released The Omen
, is a good choice to play Arthurís grandmother. She has one of the sweetest voices one will ever come across, which is always good to have in a family feature. Then there is the trio of pop stars. Anytime Madonna appears in front of the camera she is heavily criticized and usually rightfully so. Perhaps she can be a lot more successful with her voice then when she actually has to appear on screen. David Bowie, on the other hand, has had a surprisingly lucrative career as a musician turned actor and is perfectly cast as the filmís main villain. It is surprising that his distinctly rich and menacing voice has not been utilized in animated films more frequently. One could easily make the same claim about Snoop Dogg
, whose slick and relaxed delivery is also one of his key trademarks and should work well in the film.
Bessonís take on an animated family film is certainly very different from the usual Disney
fare. For one, the books have been criticized for featuring a bizarre and even inappropriate romance between the 10-year old Arthur and princess Selenia. Iím not sure if it will make it in the film, but thatís easily the sort of content sensitive parents could object to. Although these types of heroic, treasure hunting, action-adventure stories are usually irresistible, Arthur and the Invisibles looks to me like a big-budget disappointment. The $80 million price tag is quite considerable, especially for a foreign investment. Iím also not a very big fan of the animation as it makes the Minimoys look sort of creepy. They basically look like the good luck Troll dolls from the 1990s, which is not a particularly flattering image. Why is it a necessity for any small human beings to immediately have big heads and pointy ears?In Conclusion:
I donít quite see Arthur and the Invisibles as a runaway hit with families. Iím sure the CGI will be on par with most features in the genre, but Iím not quite as sure about the mythical story. Kids will enjoy anything, but the material looks like it might agitate the older audience members. I think Besson could have chosen a more original film as his swan song, but clearly he felt passionate about this project so good luck to him. Hopefully it will be a graceful exit into retirement.Similar Titles: Stuart Little
, The Secret of NIMH
, An American Tail