After watching the Luc Besson children’s epic, “Arthur and the Invisibles” I tried to figure out what I found so appealing about such a derivative mess. The pacing is off, the voices don’t fit the animated figures, and the plot is a mash-up of popular children’s fantasy stories. When I asked my seven-year-old son what was special about the movie, he told me that everyone dressed sharply and that the hero had great hair. He’s on to something.Fashion seems to always play a role in Besson films, and the best way to describe them is as ambitious messes. Besson’s films contain massive structures, beautiful imagery, and bizarre locations and characters. Just don’t let the fact that his movies don’t possess any cohesiveness or logic bother you.
“Arthur and the Invisibles” is certainly no exception. The film stars Freddie Highmore as Arthur, but he might as well be Charlie Bucket: he’s playing the same lovable character. Destitute, he lives with his grandmother (Mia Farrow) while his parents search for work. The disappearance of his grandfather also weighs heavily on his heart, and (talk about Murphy’s Law) his grandmother’s house and her spacious garden are about to be repossessed and turned into an apartment project!
Arthur learns that his grandfather hid some valuable gems on the estate and its up to him to find the jewels and pay off granny’s loan officers. Using clues left around the house by his missing grandfather, he locates a hidden portal that transports him into the microcosmic world of the Minimoys.
The Minimoys are teeny-weeny kind folk with a keen fashion sense and a wicked-cool lair. They’re just like what the Borrowers would have been like if they had lived in the field behind the Urban Outfitters production factory. Their kingdom is under constant attack by vicious bumbling soldiers under the command of the evil zhooshed ruler, Maltazard (David Bowie).
Armed with a magical sword with savoir-faire, Arthur must fight the bad guys, locate the missing diamonds, and find his missing grandfather all before the collectors return and the portal back home closes. He does have an ally though, in the form of the Minimoy Princess Selinia (although it’s more than a little creepy following the romantic tension between a 10-year-old boy and an animated nymph voiced by the 49-year-old Madonna).
There’s something extraordinary going on in this movie, but pinpointing it is difficult. If any film deserves the title of “Diamond in the Rough” this one is it. Just recognize that the exterior is rough…. really, really rough!
I suppose the film’s power comes from the ambition and freedom with which Besson tossed multiple elements into the mix. The movie never tires or slows or stops for things like plot-points and character development. It’s frenetic and exciting storytelling. It just doesn’t make much sense.“Arthur and the Invisibles” isn’t for everyone. But if “The Fifth Element” is a guilty pleasure, and you don’t mind forgetting half the movie on your way from the theater to the parking lot, this one’s for you.