Luc Besson's first foray into fine family fantasy is something of a mixed bag, much like its blend of live action and computer animation. Despiute the 3-D renderings, the characters exist in a 2-D world and go about their business in a straightforward, and uninteresting fashion. Arthur is likable enough as the young hero, but I was unable to invest much attention in his adventure with the little Minimoys that live in the backyard.
Arthur is doing fine, living a simple life with his grandmother in the country, while his parents are off in the big city looking to make some much-needed money. Arthur dreams of adventures, much like his grandfather, who is currently missing, and presumably out on one of said adventures. Then tragedy strikes; a greedy developer sneaks in on Arthur and his grandmother, and using a hole in the mortgage is buying the land from the bank. That is, unless Arthur's grandfather can show up with the money to pay off the debt within two days.
During this, Arthur's grandmother tells of a stash of rubies that were given, as a gift, to his grandfather by a tribe of tall people in Africa. His grandfather thought ahead as well, figuring that the rubies would be needed, possibly when he wasn't around. He hid them in the yard, and then left clues for Arthur to trace his travels to the Minimoys, whom he had transported from Africa to his yard. The clever boy follows the instructions and before long he finds himself miniaturized and on a grand adventure with the Minimoy princess and younger brother.
The journey is two-fold. On one hand, the princess is seeking to defeat the evil Malthazard who controls Necropolis, the center of power in the miniature world. Then there is Arthur and his quest to find his grandfather, whom he believes is held captive by Malthazard, as well as locate the hidden stash of rubies. Their journey is fraught with danger, as natural barriers and bad guy cronies stand between them and their goal.
Neither one of the story threads is well formed, and neither is anything all that new. Quite frankly, I was bored throughout. The animation was lackluster, and all of the characters look like those goofy troll dolls with the wild, electrified hair. They moved along their course, much like a player would traverse a video game. So, if you like watching video games, you will probably get a kick out of this. Otherwise, you may find yourself glancing at your watch and wondering what to have for lunch.
It really is a shame. For what it's worth, the live action portion, while not exactly groundbreaking, held all of the heart that the movie has to offer. Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory) is Arthur, and he is a talented young actor. He brings a warmth and the wonder of a child to the role. The problem lies with his animated counterpart, the voice is the same, but the animation sucks that warmth right out. The rest of the Minimoy world is populated with a wide array of starpower supplying their voices. The cast includes Robert DeNiro, Madonna, Jimmy Fallon, Snoop Dogg, Anthony Anderson, Harvey Keitel, Chazz Palmentieri, and Emilio Estevez. There is one other voice, one that does deliver the goods, in regal fashion, and that is David Bowie as Malthazard. He finds a way to breathe life into the animated evildoer.
Luc Besson doesn't deliver here. He has really carved out a niche for himself, producing and writing a number of fun, highpower action films over the past few years, this after directing a string of memorable films. His adventures into the land of family friendly entertainment, while valiant, are a misguided use of his abilities.
Bottomline. Dull, flat, lifeless. All words that can describe the failure that is Arthur and the Invisibles. The story is half-baked, it lacks the richness and depth required to create an intriguing world. The animation is a little too much to the plastic side, the voices never really take hold of their characters, and the adventure a little too simple with a distinct lack of real peril.