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"Arthur and the Invisibles": Should Have Stayed That Way

by on May 24, 2007

It’s easy to overlook the mess of CGI films that land in theaters in any given year. Just when you think they’ve cleared out the latest infestation of animal movies, another arrives. In the case of Arthur and the Invisibles, I thought this movie was actually Warner’s Ant Bully and really never paid any mind to it. Once the DVD was announced, the only thing that really attracted me to it was the voice cast and the presence of Freddie Highmore, who was excellent in Tim Burton’s Willy Wonka remake. Unfortunately, this film turns out to be a giant waste of time.

Arthur is left with his grandparents when his parents stay in the city to find jobs. He rarely sees his parents, and to make matters worse his grandfather up and randomly disappears one day. When the bank is about to foreclose on his grandmother’s house, Arthur decides he must do something. His grandmother had told him the tale of the Minimoys and how his grandfather had met them in Africa. He seeks their aid, and eventually proves to be the one meant to pull the Minimoy’s sacred and magical sword out of the stone that imprisons it (naturally). On top of this we’re given an odd romance between a boy who can’t be any older than twelve and a Minimoy who is voiced by Madonna. I don’t care if, in Minimoy years, they’re the same “age”; a kid flirting with a character played by Madonna is creepy no matter which way it’s cut.

The film starts out admirably enough, and I quite enjoyed the live action portions of the film. It’s when we’re taken to the Minimoy’s world that it all turns to crap. The voice actors are from all over the place, from Robert DeNiro, Snoop Dogg, David Bowie, and Madonna all the way down to Emilio Estevez and Jimmy Fallon. (At least Jason Batemen and the Corddry brothers are a delight, even though their parts are small.) In the back of my head I guess I thought any movie that could afford that many voices had to have had some kind of overseer who’d make sure the film itself wasn’t boring and dull. Lesson learned.

All of the sequences in the Minimoy’s universe are aimless and confusing. Like a mix of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids! and The Borrowers, the Minimoys universe is just a scaled-down version of the adult world. While the film does a remarkable job at blending real-world plants and objects with the CGI, it’s all lost in the sporadic movements of the story. Our hero and his companions barely set out on their adventure before they have to go to bed, and the build up to the big baddie in the end is weakened by the pace of the film. It’s as if the ideas for the scenes were constructed and then the story elements just placed throughout to make the scenes have some sort of merit. An overly long club scene seems inserted only to give Snoop Dogg more chances to talk, and the whole confrontation between Maltazard (David Bowie) and Princess Selenia (Madonna) tells us that Selenia could have cured Maltazard’s illness and will to be mean had she just kissed him. What the hell kind of selfish person refuses to kiss someone if she can end his reign of tyranny? While it does amuse with the implication that Maltazard contracted his “illness” from his promiscuous dating (Madonna and David Bowie are referring to STDs, kids!), the scene ends up adding nothing to the film in terms of character development.

Despite the sheer number of name talents who lend their voices to the film, the acting is stiff. The fact is that putting DeNiro into a film like this only ups the budget and saddles the movie with a flat performance.

I doubt even kids will find it entertaining, as the flipping between live action and CGI is sometimes jarring and the characters, except for Arthur and his family, are one-dimensional. The film is a waste of time.

Packaged in a single disc amaray case, Arthur and the Invisibles comes with colorful packaging, disc and menu art. No paper inserts are included, although it does come with a coupon for Langers juice. (I’ve never even heard of this brand and I’m not entirely sure what it has to do with the film.)

Video and audio on the release are superb. The video looks great and I even found myself taken aback by just how clean and clear the live-action opening is. The varied colors of the cars pop out in the beautiful scenery and set up what you imagine could be a decent movie. The audio is immersive as well and utilizes some of the rear channels at times, although everything is focused on the front channels the majority of the time.

Special features are few on this release. Two music videos are included, by Elijah and Jewel, with the Jewel video having a two minute “in the recording studio” featurette. Other featurettes include the seven-minute “The Voices,” which interviews most of the actors, except for Madonna, DeNiro and Bowie. We do get to hear from Bateman and the Corddrys, who with Fallon make it worth watching. (Though it’s a bit grating listen to them marvel at the fact that they were rarely in the recording studio with each other; really, how many times do I have to hear this on an animated DVD featurette?) Trailers litter the rest of the disc.

Overall, the DVD like the film itself can be passed on. If you want to see it, then rent it, but otherwise it’s easy to avoid this one. As a total package, this one earns a big fat Skip.

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