Arthur & the Invisibles
directed by Luc Besson
(Weinstein, 2006)

There's just a slight disparity in evildoers, above and below ground.

Under the ground, in the fantasy portion of director Luc Besson's Arthur & the Invisibles, Maltazard reigns over dark forces. A tall, tattered villain voiced by David Bowie, Maltazard's goal is to wipe out the tiny Minimoy creatures who live in peace.

Above ground, in the live-action scenes, Maltazard's counterparts are craven, ruthless and devious ... developers.

Developers have their eye on the home that belongs to Arthur's grandparents and, unless Arthur and his granny can come up with the money, they'll lose the family farm. That's bad, of course, but just not on par with Maltazard's grand plan to wipe out an entire race of tiny beings.

And that's kind of how Arthur & the Invisibles goes: Some great voice casting and a magical tale, all caught up in a plot that zips along, hugging the corners, until it has to slow down for some sort of unnecessary obstruction that makes little sense.

Above ground, it's pretty straightforward. Arthur (Freddie Highmore) and Granny (Mia Farrow) live together on the family farm while Arthur's parents work in the big city to support them and Arthur's wayfaring grandfather is off on an adventure. To save the farm, Arthur must decipher his grandfather's clues to find a trove of rubies buried on the property.

And, to do that, Arthur must befriend characters that come alive from his grandfather's sketchbooks and convince "the Invisibles," or Minimoys, to help him in his quest.

The movie references everything from the King Arthur legend, appropriately enough, to films like Pulp Fiction and Saturday Night Fever. And everyone from Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel to Snoop Dogg and Madonna stands ready in service of the adventure.

But underground, what should have been suspenseful, animated fun just seems a draggy, confusing welter of ideas, one reference crowding into the next. It's entertaining enough, but it lacks the magic of a great, mythical tale.

At 94 minutes, the English version is about 10 minutes shorter than the original French. Maybe some of the magic got lost along the way.

review by
Jen Kopf

16 February 2008

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