Arthur And The Invisibles

Arthur And The Invisibles

**1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Rule One in children’s stories is be real. Rule Two is make the magic work. Rule Three is parallel universes must have their own dynamics. Rule Four is keep it simple.

Luc Besson has invented a Smurf-like community of little people, dressed in designer medieval, who live like moles under the ground. They have a king and a sword in a stone and an evil presence whose name cannot be mentioned and a sexy princess in tights and… Nothing about them makes sense.

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Ah, you say, that’s the magic!

Arthur (Freddie Highmore) is 10-years-old and English. His parents have sent him to stay with Gran (Mia Farrow) in America. Grandad (Ron Crawford), an explorer, who became chummy with a tall tribe in Africa and their miniature friends The Minimoys, has disappeared with a bag of rubies.

Okay, so far?

To explain the rest of the plot would take until next week, breaking Rule Four. Capsulated, it goes like this: Gran is going to be evicted. She needs the rubies to pay off her debts. The Minimoys now live under her garden. Arthur makes himself small and joins them. He and the Minimoy princess hit it off. He pulls the sword out of the stone and gives it to her because she’s better at that kind of thing. The evil presence, called (whisper) Maltazard, has the rubies in the next room. Arthur and the princess go in to steal them. Scared yet?

Upstairs, Arthur and Gran and the big fat oozy businessman who wants her property are flesh-and-blood. The Minimoys are animated, which means that there are two Arthurs, the Smurf and the boy. Too many unanswered questions act as barriers to enjoyment. How did the Minimoys come from Africa and create a new history for themselves, as well as decorate their cave under Gran’s veg patch? Why aren’t they blind like moles? Why aren’t they black like their tall friends? Who on earth is this Maltazard person? Why does he look like The Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth?

Besson breaks all the Rules and doesn’t get away with it. He appears to have appropriated plot hooks and ideas from a number of other sources and yet has forgotten to build back stories. Despite David Bowie’s chilling reading of Maltazard, there is no tension. Will Arthur retrieve the rubies and save Gran’s house? Will the princess say to him before he turns back into a boy, “I’ll wait for you”? Will Grandad come home and make everything all right again?

Don’t ask. You know the answers.

Why use star names to voice the characters when there are lesser known actors who could do the job even better. When Madonna isn’t trying to be an English lady, in tweeds and with a 12 bore under her arm, she’s a feisty, no-nonsense gal and that suits the tomboy princess. But what, in heaven’s name, is Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Emilio Estevez and Chazz Palminteri doing here?

Rule Five is be original. Besson breaks that one, too.

Reviewed on: 01 Feb 2007
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An English boy in America seeks the help of miniature medieval Smurflings to save his Gran from being evicted.
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