Arthur and the Invisibles

Luc Besson is my favorite writer/director/producer/filmmaker, but when this film first came out, I had a similar reaction to Robert Rodriguez doing Sharkboy and Lavagirl... and didn't see it. But I recently saw it coming on Showtime, set my DVR to record it, and finally got around to watching it. And I have to say, it wasn't as bad as I figured. Arthur (Freddie Highmore) is an imaginative boy living with his Granny (Mia Farrow), because his parents (Penny Balfour and Doug Rand) are off trying to make some money. So Granny tells Arthur stories of the adventures of her missing husband, Archibald (Ron Crawford). The latest story is that of the Minimoys, a tribe of incredibly tiny, elf-like creatures that Archibald had found in Africa, and who had offered up a treasure of rubies to Archibald. But when he goes to retrieve the treasure, he goes missing. Years later, Arthur and Granny's house/property is up for demolition unless they can find some money in two days. So Arthur decides to travel to the land of the Minimoys, who had apparently been transported from Africa to his front yard, to reclaim the ruby treasure. But when he gets there, he discovers that he showed up right as Princess Selenia (Madonna) is about to claim the right to go and slay the evil Maltazard (David Bowie). Coincidentally, both are in the same location, so they, along with Selenia's brother, Betameche (Jimmy Fallon), go on this wild adventure.

     This movie is like mixing Arthurian Legend, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and really any fantasy story that follows Joseph Campbell's Monomythic structure. The Arthurian Legend is quite literal. The main character's name is Arthur, and he's able to pull a sword from a stone when the apparent ‘chosen one', Selenia, couldn't. The Monomythic structure is blatantly obvious, as well (though, really, Arthurian Legend follows the Monomyth itself, anyway). There's the princess/love interest (Selenia), the friend/guardian (Betameche), the mentor (Archibald), the villainous mastermind (Maltazard), and the numerous helpers along the way. And they're all on a ‘quest' to find a special item (the rubies) and to slay the villain.

     But this is part of its downfall. The movie is a short 94 minutes, but acts a lot more epic than it is. There's a whole world and mythology behind all of this, and you can really tell this movie was based on a set of books. Unfortunately, not all of it is explained (such as the random appearances by the African tribe, or the stone guardians), and a lot of it comes off as episodic or choppy (think A Series of Unfortunate Events). They go from one location and set of characters to the other, each with its own big sequence, but only long enough for something cool to happen before moving on. In other words, the movie is so focused on the idea of the story and characters than the story and characters themselves. There is no character development or depth. There is no rise from reluctant hero to hero from Arthur; he starts out heroic and ends heroic. There is no build in the relationship between Arthur and Selenia; they're enraptured by each other from the start, and with absolutely no warning or whatever, they're suddenly soul mates. The story and characters are about as flat/static as they can get.

     However, all of that being said, the movie was still really enjoyable. The parts that were animated looked really great. My favorite simple scene was the part where they go to sleep in the flower pollen. That just looked amazing. But my favorite scene in the whole movie was the fight sequence on the record player. I thought that was quite imaginative and pretty fun. Oh, and even though it was silly, the goofy bad-guy soldiers were great and funny.

     The voice acting is something to commend, as well. As I've already stated, Freddie Highmore lends his voice (as well as doing real-life acting at the beginning and end), as do Madonna, Jimmy Fallon, and David Bowie (I love this man in villainous roles). But then the movie also has Snoop Dogg, Emilio Estevez, Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Anthony Anderson, and Jason Bateman. Though while Snoop Dogg and Anthony Anderson's characters don't have too much screen time, they are in my favorite part of the movie (the part that leads into the record player fight). But I think the best voices of the film were Madonna, David Bowie, Jimmy Fallon, and Jason Bateman. You can't even tell it's Jason Bateman, but the way he speaks is hilarious. And, as I've already stated, David Bowie is just awesome.

     It's sad to think that Luc Besson stated this was going to be his last film as a director, though. It's not totally true, as he's coming out with two more films (as director). However, those films are the two sequels to this film, so who knows (though that does make me a bit happy, as they never explain what happens to the bad guy). It was a fun little film and had some good visuals (and some cool music). However, they made it almost too child-friendly by dumbing down the characters and story. Hopefully the next two won't be as choppy or static as the first, and I know this man can write intricate characters, so I know it's possible. I'll go see the sequels, but if they're the same as the first, it'll be disappointing.

     (And I still refuse to see Sharkboy and Lavagirl).

Reviewed by: Nick