Arthur and the Invisibles
Directed by Luc Besson. Voices by David Bowie, Madonna, Snoop Dogg, Jimmy Fallon, Robert De Niro, Anthony Anderson, Chazz Palminteri, Jason Bateman, Harvey Keitel, Emilio Estevez. Starring Freddie Highmore, Mia Farrow. (2006, PG, 94 min.)
REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., Jan. 19, 2007
So I saw this movie this morning. Invisible something? Funny, nothing in it turned out to be invisible – only very, very small. Anyhow, I was optimistic because Besson wrote and directed it, based on his own series of children’s books. Bowie is the voice of an evil wizard, and a computer-animated Snoop Dogg serves our heroes a bright green and mysteriously smoldering beverage that “always brings good luck.” Sure, it all sounds good on paper, but I had forgotten the whole terribly expensive thing by the time it was over and my burrito was ready. And I’ll tell you why: It doesn’t make a lick of goddamn sense. Perhaps the Arthur books do a better job of explaining the story in their original French. Here 10-year-old Arthur (Finding Neverland wunderkind Highmore) must save his grandmother (Farrow) from foreclosure by retrieving a fortune in rubies hidden within the kingdom of tiny people living in his yard. He makes himself tiny as well, via some obscure magical process involving a telescope, a full moon every 10 months, and a tribe of African warriors. Then he meets a generically kickass tiny princess (Madonna) and kind of helps her save herself. There’s a sword in a stone, something called the Seven Lands (some of which are forbidden – perhaps waiting for a sequel?), a couple of Pulp Fiction jokes, and lines like “Your heart is the strongest of weapons.” As if the movie weren’t confusing enough, Besson shoehorns in the backstory for his evil wizard through dialogue with Madonna. It just doesn’t stick. A children’s story can and probably should be fantastical but not without its own internal logic underneath the whimsy. Before we can suspend disbelief, we have to trust in the author’s ability to fool us with a fully realized artificial reality. Children are no exception; the savvy school-agers in Besson’s target audience might be even more the rule. The film is probably unsuitable for younger children, unless you’re already watching action movies with them. (Nobody’s head gets blown off, but there’s quite a bit of swordplay and sharp teeth.) But the real problem is that the story is just incoherent, and the faster it moves, the more frantic it seems.