DVD Review: The Secret World of Arrietty (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Country: United States
Release Date: May 22, 2012
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
· Hiromasa Yonebayashi
· Bridgit Mendler
· David Henrie
· Will Arnett
· Amy Poehler
· Moises Arias
· Carol Burnett
by Eric Deters
Published: May 27, 2012
Watching “The Secret World of Arrietty” has made me realize something very unsettling: I have seen no other Studio Ghibli movies, and I REALLY need to watch more. I’ve always heard such glowing remarks about Miyazaki’s films like “Princess Mononoke” and “My Neighbor Totoro” but I’ve never seen any of them. I can’t even compare this film to any of the others, but if what I’ve seen here is a decent indicator of the quality of the films, then I’ve got some stuff to watch this summer.
“The Secret World of Arrietty” was adapted from a Mary Norton novel, “The Borrowers,” and follows the titular Borrower (tiny creature) Arrietty (voiced by Bridgit Mendler) as she and her parents (funnily enough, voiced by the couple Amy Poehler and Will Arnett) live under the floorboards of the home that Shawn, the other main character (voiced by David Henrie), is spending a week living in with his aunt Hara (voiced by Carol Burnett). Surprisingly enough for such a joyful, carefree movie that this is, there are a surprising amount of twists and revelations throughout the plot, such as Shawn’s reasons for staying with Hara, the history of the home he stays at, and the nature of the Borrowers and their traditions. It’s a heartwarming and sometimes tear-jerking story (I’ll admit that a certain scene got me a tad teary-eyed) that meshes perfectly with the signature Ghibli animation.
That animation and the score that accompanies it, however, is what makes this film truly shine. The opening theme is beautiful and tranquil, and the animation for every character imbues them with a sense of individuality that amplifies the quality voice acting in the picture. Personal standouts on that front are Arrietty’s parents, the voice actors of which were almost unidentifiable from just a short listen. Will Arnett plays an entirely unique role here as Pod, and his tone is gruffer than it ever is playful like in his other work. Amy Poehler plays the worrisome Homily, and she reminds me more of Leslie Knope from “Parks and Recreation” than any of her other characters. Aside from that, I’d say that the voice acting is fairly standard. The animation, however, has such a quality to it that I find it hard to put into words. Everything feels alive and imaginative and beautiful and it’s transfixing and I’m gushing now, aren’t I?
The only problem that I really have with the package is the lack of any truly extraordinary special features for the Blu-Ray edition. The picture enhances the already outstanding animation, but aside from that only one “addition” to this version of the film is really noteworthy. Seeing the original Japanese storyboards after watching the film all the way through is a marvelous record of how much artistry is on display before the animators can truly do their job, and it’s a testament to the wonderful pacing of the film that this feature is still highly watchable even without that animation. “Arrietty’s Song” by Cecile Corbel isn’t too bad, but it doesn’t rival the rest of the music in the film, and the music video that accompanies it is simply assorted clips of the song being recorded and scenes from the movie. “Summertime” by Bridgit Mendler was made prior to separate from the film’s release and was included simply because it fits thematically with the film, but in all honesty, it’s really not a good song, and seeing the “Making Of” featurette was only slightly more interesting. The collection of original Japanese trailers and TV spots make for a fun game of “Find The Differences,” as each one of the first six are virtually the same, and after that only slightly less minor thing are added, such as a concrete release date or different scenes.
It’s a shame that the Blu-Ray package chose to opt away from interview content or featurettes regarding the animation work in the piece, as that kind of thing is something I would adore to watch. Sadly, we received two mediocre music videos, far too many similar commercial spots, and a “saving grace” in the original storyboards. Aside from the special features, this edition of “The Secret World of Arrietty” is worth picking up for the visual upgrade it provides or just for the film itself if you haven’t seen it yet.