It’s easy to overlook the mess of CGI films that land in theaters in any given year. Just when you think the theater is free of the animal movie infestations, another arrives. In the case of Arthur and the Invisibles, I thought this movie was actually Warner’s Ant Bully and really never paid any mind to it. Once the DVD was announced, the only thing that really attracted me to it was the voice cast and the fact that Freddie Highmore, whom was excellent in Burton’s Willy Wonka remake. Unfortunately, this attraction bit me in the end, as Arthur and the Invisibles is ultimately a giant waste of time.
As the story goes, Arthur is left with his grandparents when his parents stay in the city to find jobs. He rarely sees his parents and to make matters worse his grandfather up and randomly disappeared one day. When the bank is about to foreclose on Arthur and his grandmothers house, Arthur decides he must do something after hearing from his grandmother the tale of the Minimoys and how his grandfather had met them in Africa. Seeking out their aid, Arthur eventually becomes the one meant to pull the Minimoys sacred and magical sword out of its stone imprisonment (naturally). On top of this we’re given an odd romance between a boy who can’t be any older than twelve and a Minimoy who is voiced by Madonna. I don’t care if, in Minimoy ears they’re the same “age”, a kid flirting with Madonna’s voice is creepy no matter which way it’s cut.
The film starts out admirably enough and I quite enjoyed the live action portions of the film. It’s when we’re taken to the Minimoy’s world that it all turns to crap. The voice actors fly around all over the place, ranging from Robert DeNiro, Snoop Dogg, David Bowie, Madonna and all the way down the ladder to Emilio Estevez and Jimmy Fallon. In the back of my head I guess I thought any movie that could afford that many voices on a film had to have had some kind of overseer to make sure the film wasn’t boring and dull. Lesson learned.
All of the sequences in the Minimoys universe are aimless and confusing. Like a mix of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids! and The Borrowers, the Minimoys universe is just a blown up version of the adult world. While the film does a remarkable job at blending in real-world plants and objects in with the CGI of the film, it’s all lost in the sporadic movements of the story. Our hero and his companions barely set out on their adventure before they go to bed and even then the build up to the big baddie in the end is weakened by the pace of the film. It’s as if the ideas for the scenes were constructed and then the story elements were placed throughout them to make the scenes have some sort of merit. The overly long club scene seemed like nothing more than to let Snoop Dogg talk more and the whole confrontation between Maltazard (David Bowie) and Princess Selenia (Madonna) tells us that Selenia could have cured Maltazard’s illness and will to be mean had she just kissed him. The hell kind of selfish person refuses to kiss someone if she can end the reign of tyranny? While the scene does amuse with the alliterations to Maltazard getting his “illness” from his promiscuous dating (Madonna and David Bowie are referring to STDs, kids!), the scene ends up adding nothing to the film in terms of character development.
Despite the large voice cast (that even has appearances from Jason Batemen and the Corddry brothers [Nate (Studio 60) and Robert (The Winner), from The Daily Show fame], which is delightful, even if their parts are small), it’s evidenced that these animated features are packed with Hollywood voice actors with stiff voice acting (while Disney may have cast some big names in some of their animated films, at least they had the knowledge to leave most of the big parts to unknowns. Instead we get DeNiro which just ups the films budget and leaves us with a rather flat reading of the character.
Overall the film can easily be skipped. I doubt even kids will find it entertaining, as the flipping between live action and CGI is sometimes jarring and the characters, sans for Arthur and his family, are one-dimensional that don’t ever have any payoff. The film is a waste of time and if you must see it, it should be kept to a rental.
Packaged in a single disc amaray case, Arthur and the Invisibles, comes with colorful packaging, disc and menu art. No paper inserts are included, although a coupon for Langers juice is given (I’ve never even heard of this brand and I’m not entirely sure what it has to do with the film).
Video and audio on this release is superb. The video looks great and I even found myself taken aback by just how clean and clear the live-action opening is. The varied colors of the cars pop out in the beautiful scenery and sets up what you imagine would be a decent movie. The audio is immersive as well and utilizes some of the rear channels at times, although everything is focused on the front channels the majority of the time.
Special features are few on this release. Two music videos are included, one by Elijah and Jewel, with the Jewel video having a two minute “in the recording studio” featurettes. The other featurettes is a “The Voices” featurette, which has interviews with the vast majority of the actors, sans Madonna, DeNiro and Bowie, anyway. The great thing about this featurette is we get some words from Bateman and the Corddry’s, who really make the featurettes, along with Falon. They all remark that they were rarely in the studios with each other (really, how many times do I have to hear this on animated DVD featurettes? They rarely record in one session!) and the featurettes is over before you know it, clocking at only seven minutes. Trailers litter the rest of the disc, which round out the extras menu.
Overall, like the film, the DVD can be passed on as well. If you want to see it, then rent it, but otherwise it’s easy to avoid this one. As a total package, this one earns a big fat Skip.