Movie Magazine International

The Borrowers

UK/USA - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

Writer Mary Norton came up with a novel solution to why odds and ends have a tendency to disappear. She credited a secretive race of creatures that look like human beings but are only six inches tall and who live by borrowing these things from us. She dubbed them "The Borrowers" and after two television incarnations, these diminutive folk have finally made it to the big screen.

It's the story of the Clock family, father Pod, mother Homily, daughter Arietty, and son Peagreen. The house they share with a full-sized family named Lender, was once filled with other borrowers, but over time, they've moved away, leaving only the Clock family and their wistful memories of better days.

We meet them as Pod, Arrietty, and Peagreen are on a borrowing expedition, complete with dental floss and safety pin for scaling cabinets. A craving for ice cream leads Arietty to become trapped in the freezer and, as a result, she's forbidden from going on any more borrowing expeditions. Unfortunately, Arietty has a low boredom threshold, which leads to recklessness.

When she sets out on her own, she's discovered by the Lender's son, Paul. Much to her surprise, he doesn't immediately squish her, as her parents had always warned her would happen. Instead, they become friends and, when their mutual homestead is threatened by shady lawyer, Ocious P. Potter, they rally to save it from the wrecking ball.

The pace is fast, without being frantic. The humor, even the slapstick, is gentle with good special effects that understand their supporting role and ingenious art direction. How can you not love a shot of a kid munching a marshmallow almost as big as he is? Flora Newbigin as Arietty is spunky without being precocious. John Goodman as the evil lawyer leavens his apple-dumpling face with a wicked sneer and Ruby Wax has a killer cameo that teaches the good sense of good manners.

When I was a kid, "The Borrowers" series was among my very favorite reading. The books were clever, never ever talked down to me, and, best of all, had in Arietty Clock a heroine who was resourceful, smart, and brave. "The Borrowers" film captures the endearing spirit of those special books.

© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 2/11/98

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