Arthur and the Invisibles (2006)

Genres - Children's/Family  |   Sub-Genres - Children's Fantasy  |   Release Date - Dec 29, 2006 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 100 min.  |   Countries - France   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Derek Armstrong

You can't help but feel like a bit of a killjoy when criticizing Arthur and the Invisibles. Respected French director Luc Besson has really tried to come up with a fantasy world worthy of a child's affections, adapting his own storybook, and the effort does occasionally bear fruit. More often, though, it's like a second-tier digital update of The Dark Crystal -- without the cult following. Arthur and the Invisibles does kick off outside the CG realm. Freddie Highmore, so memorable in Finding Neverland, has now done the "lead little kid" role for a third time (after Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), and he's starting to get a little less adorable. But Mia Farrow, who plays his grandmother, just gets more adorable with age, and the above-ground portion of the story gets by on an aesthetic resembling Amélie (directed by Besson's countryman, Jean-Pierre Jeunet). But once little Highmore is high no more, shrunken to the size of an ant for his subterranean adventure, the movie veers off into elf-princess and wizard-fairy land. Which is to say, it thrusts us headlong into a world of woodland creatures whose collective mythology is unfamiliar to us. But there's no time to get our bearings, because Besson's script has a lot to cram in to the short duration of a kids' movie. Besson did pique the interest of some A-list vocal talent -- most surprisingly, Harvey Keitel; most effectively, David Bowie as a fey villain. In fact, a cameo involving Snoop Dogg actually breathes new life into a sagging second act, even if his "hip-hop fairy" is just an obligatory nod toward politically correct multiculturalism. Maybe this encapsulates the overriding problem with Besson's film -- by trying to have a little of everything for everybody, it's fully satisfying to nobody, and falls short of becoming a new classic.