- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 20, 2007

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on commonsensemedia.org.

‘Arthur and the Invisibles’

Rating: PG for fantasy action and brief suggestive material. Common Sense Media: On. For ages 5 and older.

(out of five stars)

Running time: 94 minutes

Common Sense review: Frenzied and disconnected, “Arthur and the Invisibles” (originally released in France as “Arthur et les Minimoys”) follows a human boy whose adventures lead him into a community of teeny-weeny elflike creatures.

It’s easy to see why 10-year-old Arthur (Freddie Highmore) wants to be someplace else. He lives on a farm with his grandmother (aptly doddering Mia Farrow) and misses his parents (Penny Balfour and Doug Rand), who are off in the city working to pay for his boarding school. As Granny entertains Arthur with tales of his grandfather, Archibald (Ron Crawford), who’s lost in Africa, she also worries that she’s about to lose their home to greedy land developers.

Alone with Granny on his birthday, Arthur decides to help her by following a series of clues left behind by Archibald that apparently lead to a buried treasure.

His search involves meeting a set of Massai warriors (the chief is played by Jean Bejote Njamba) who help shrink him to the size (and CGI’ed form) of the elves — called Minimoys — who live beneath Granny’s lawn. At this point, he becomes enamored of the Minimoys’ princess, Selenia (voiced by Madonna).

Because the Minimoys are threatened with enslavement by the malevolent Maltazard (David Bowie), Selenia’s father (Robert De Niro) sends her, along with the now-Minimoyed Arthur and Selenia’s brother Betameche (Jimmy Fallon), to find the treasure in the hope that it will pay off the villains, who ride large, noisy bugs in their assault on the peace-loving Minimoys.

The plot — based on a series of children’s books by director Luc Besson — proceeds in a tizzy, cutting between above-ground scenes (Granny fretting over her missing husband and grandson) and below-ground scenes, though never quite establishing thematic or emotional links between the two realms.

Common Sense note: Parents need to know that this animated-and-live-action film is muddled and a bit hectic. The movie’s two realms feature two villains: a developer who wants to take Grandma’s land and an underground bully who threatens to enslave the tiny, perky Minimoys.

There’s some stereotyping: A working-class mother worries that she has abandoned her son, and African warriors appear only to help a white boy have an adventure.

Families can talk about Arthur’s underground adventure. Children, have you ever imagined changing your size or changing your body? How? What’s appealing about the Minimoys? How is Arthur able to help his grandmother? Why are Arthur’s parents living apart from him? If your family has read the books on which the movie is based, you can compare them. Which do you like better? Why?

Language alert: Mild curse words.

Sexual content: Some flirting between Arthur and Princess Selenia.

Violence alert: Some banging around and crashing into things as the Minimoys travel through tunnels and the lawn; evil Maltazard threatens to enslave the Minimoys and sics buzzing bugs on them (“dive-bombing” and swooping, some sense of menace in the music); African warriors initially appear as looming shadows with spears; a flood threatens the Minimoys.

Social-behavior alert: Arthur doses his grandmother with sleeping drops so he can sneak out after the treasure; Maltazard is villainous; a mean developer wants grandmother’s home; Arthur’s mother worries that in their absence, she and her husband are “horrible parents”; stereotyping of black/Rasta characters.

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