Written by Caballero Oscuro
What would happen if the high-octane director of violent action flicks like La Femme Nikita and The Professional decided to make a kiddie film? That’s about as crazy the director of the Mad Max trilogy making a movie about dancing penguins, right? Oh, wait…
With Arthur and the Invisibles, action auteur Luc Besson turns his attention to entertainment for the younger set with mostly favorable results. Although the film was largely ignored at the box office during its brief theatrical run early this year, it now has a chance to find its audience with its release on DVD. It’s mostly CG-animation, but also has some live-action interludes such as its prolonged introduction.
Young Arthur (Freddie Highmore) is staying with his grandmother (Mia Farrow) on her bucolic farm when he stumbles across his absent grandfather’s notes regarding a race of tiny creatures living in their backyard. Grandpa disappeared long ago, leaving Grandma all alone with a looming bank foreclosure. Arthur learns that Grandpa might have located a fortune in rubies that would save the farm, so he sets out to follow Grandpa’s directions to recover the treasure and possibly Grandpa as well.
Conveniently, the treasure is somewhere in the secret world of the Minimoys, the tiny critters populating the farmland, so Arthur manages to find the hidden entrance to their world, causing his transformation into his CGI Minimoy body. The film is mostly CG from this point on, launching Arthur into a fantastic world beyond his imagination. He meets the Minimoys and becomes their hero when he’s able to pull their mystical sword from its stone (hmm…). He also meets a tough and cute Minimoy lass (Madonna) who accompanies him on his quest to recover the treasure and concurrently save the rest of the Minimoys from destruction at the hands of the evil local overlord (David Bowie).
The story doesn’t make much sense if any thought is directed at it, but viewers looking for a little escapism and harmless fantasy could do much worse than this effort. Besson’s CG world is stunning, with expertly realized character models and breathtaking backgrounds that fully flesh out the fantasy. The Minimoys themselves look something like tough Troll dolls, while their evil enemies look like escapees from the Oddworld series of videogames. Besson’s flair for action keeps the story moving along briskly and invigorates the frequent action sequences, providing a consistently entertaining ride through the Minimoy world. The live action scenes suffer in comparison, as it’s a bit of a downer every time the attention is shifted from CG to live action, but thankfully Besson never belabors the live action to unbearable lengths.
The vocal cast assembled for the English version boasts a formidable list of legends from the music and film worlds. It’s hard to imagine any other project aside from a Live Aid show where viewers might find Madonna, David Bowie, and Snoop Dogg on the same bill. Also, for mafia film fans, Besson somehow nabbed Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel, and Chazz Palminteri to lend their muscle. Everyone contributes solid vocal work, although the pairing of Madonna and Highmore as romantic interests is a bit disconcerting even in a virtual world. The live-action cast isn’t nearly as impressive, but gets serviceable performances from young master Highmore and Farrow in the principal roles.
The DVD is short on extra features, providing a couple of music videos associated with the film but little else. Arthur and the Invisibles is now available everywhere, check your local retailer for additional information.