The Clock family live quietly with their Lenders, until fiesty Arriety befriends Peter, a son of the Lender family. Evil property developer Potter threatens eviction and after their friendly contact it is up to the Borrowers to find a will containing the property rights of the house hidden in the walls to stop Peter's family becoming homeless.
Mary Norton's captivating books about the scavenging little people who live under the floorboards, making ingenious use of "borrowed" bits and bobs, are perennial favourites. Nevertheless the first big screen adaptation of the four inch tall Clock family's adventures - unlike past TV versions including the BBC series produced, like this film, by Working Title - is not content with Norton's gentle idea of incident and drama.
No, this is an altogether rowdier, far more rumbustuous business, with non-stop action, scads of deadly perils, and an emphatic musical score that wouldn't be out place in a nerve-wracking adult thriller.
The Clocks, father Pod (Broadbent), mother Homily (Imrie) and their spunky offspring Arriety and Peagreen (Flora Newbigin and Tom Felton) live in the big old rackety-packety house of the "human bean" Lender family. Against all the Borrower rules Arriety is befriended by the Lender boy Peter (Bradley Pierce), an interspecies alliance that proves vital when nasty lawyer and property developer Ocious Potter (Goodman) contrives to steal the Lenders' home for demolition.
Concealed in the walls of the house is the will proving ownership by the goodies, so, of course, it's up to the diminutive but tirelessly heroic Clocks to save the day.
A very brisk day ensues in which Potter and a comical exterminator subject our wee folk to serial near-death experiences by gassing, electrocution, drowning and squishing. In this reviewer's vicinity a tiny viewer of a nervous disposition found it all too harrowing to bear, but the hardier little souls of four and upwards enthusiastically got into the swing of the violent antics as Pod and clan emulate Jerry the mouse to thwart Potter's Tom the cat.
Seamless special effects and clever production design compare favourably to those in far bigger budgeted American family extravaganzas, with witty, timeless sets successfully creating a world in which the transatlantic cast come together without incongruity. Amusing cameos from Hugh Laurie and Ruby Wax add to the noisy fun, as do obvious nods to such fantasies as It's A Wonderful Life and The Indian In The Cupboard. Director Hewitt (Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey) keeps the pace flying and pulls off some satisfying thrills to tickle audiences, large as well as small.
Hewitt (Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey) keeps the pace flying and pulls off some satisfying thrills to tickle audiences, large as well as small.