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BORROWERS, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Pod (Jim Broadbent), Homily (Celia Imrie) and their kids, Peagreen (Tom Felton) and Arrietty (Flora Newbigin) are The Borrowers, a family of tiny people who live under the floorboards of a big house, surviving by ‘borrowing’ from Joe (Aden Gillett) and Victoria Lender (Doon MacKichan) and their son, Pete (Bradley Pierce), the ‘human bean’ family upstairs. One day, Arrietty sets off on an adventure, but is caught by Pete, who wishes her no harm and they tentatively become friends. Pete tells Arrietty that his Great Aunt Mary, who owns the house they all share, has died, and because the will can’t be found, the ill-willed lawyer Ocious Potter (John Goodman), has decided to demolish the house and build a new development. Realising the problem this causes Arrietty and her family, Pete promises to smuggle them to his new home when they move, but an accident leaves the miniature children stranded – and in great danger. They have to save not only their own lives, but the family home as well.

"Maybe size DOESN’T matter - at least, not in the land of The Borrowers. The screen adaptation of Mary Norton’s characters is an inspired fantasy tale in a magical land of big ‘beans’ and borrowers, the delightful little people with an abundance of frizzy hair, a distinctive gap between their front teeth and survival skills that are nothing short of spectacular. Mousehunt meets FairyTale, in this appealing yarn, where courtesy is the glue that holds society together. Chewing on his cigar with as much relish as he attacks the role, John Goodman is larger than life, in more ways than one, as the obnixious Ocious, the baddie you love to hate. His eyes flash, his mouth contorts, he is scalded, covered with exterminator foam and flattened by liquid cheese - all in his quest fueled by greed and deception. The minute world of the Innies and Outies Borrowers is portrayed with convincing detail and outstanding production design and effects. The performances are delightful, with Flora Newbigin appealing as Arrietty and Tom Feldon adorable as little Peagreen, the teeny boy with the angel face who gets in all types of strife - from landing in dog-poo to hanging precariously from a lit light-bulb. Watch out for a terrific sequence when Peagreen is trapped in an empty milk bottle about to be filled on the bottling line in the dairy. Harry Gregson-Williams’ score effectively savours our anticipation. And Ruby Wax in a scene-stealing cameo is a delight. Escape into the world of the Borrowers for lots of fun, laughs and a slice of magic. And you’ll discover that where there’s a will, there isn’t always a way."
Louise Keller

"It could be said that where books stimulate the use of children’s imaginations, films do the job for them and leave the imaginations unused. Sometimes that is simply not true, as in a film like The Borrowers, which fires the imagination. The production and costume designs work beautifully to create a fantasy world where the light is always that magical, soft, golden, late afternoon light, the town has no nasty factories, not even trucks in the streets. Indeed, the streets are filled with Morris Minors, and even the wicked lawyer’s stretch limo is from that unglamorous garage. In the air, noiseless airplanes and floating airships glide in the sky, and the houses are all quaintly built, of brick. And this is just the so called ‘real’ world of the human ‘beans’; the Borrowers, of course, inhabit the same world, but beneath the floorboards and inside the recesses of houses, where things are also very different. Told from a child’s point of view, this world is both romantic and terrifying, depending on the moment. Hans Zimmer’s score, big music for little people, bridges the gap for the adults between childish fantasy and glorious invention. These strengths help the film overcome a few of its weaknesses, including the jarring clash of American and English characters – and their accompanying accents. By itself this diversity would not be jarring were we in the real world: but in a fantasy world, such inconsistencies need a reason, which is absent. All the same, in terms of performance, the cast, especially John Goodman, carries off the script, even though the conflicting styles – from larger than life to naturalistic – tend to destabilise the audience. Not that this will necessarily trouble the 8 to 12 year olds who are the target market for The Borrowers. (That’s not a put-down: children are just more matter of fact about things."
Andrew L. Urban

"It's curious that it's taken over two decades for this beloved series of British stories to have reached the big screen. While the result is mixed, it's nevertheless proof that the combination of imagination and a real sense of character, can often separate the inventive from the sheer mundane. The Borrowers is, for the most part , a delightful affair, funny but in a gently, British way, and it is the British elements that give the film its spark. As movie making, the film is certainly exquisite, beautifully shot in a yellow hue to add to the film heightened sense of reality, and the digital effects seamlessly blend in with the characters. Art direction and costume design create a true sense of character, so on a visual level, the film is intoxicating. The British cast is uniformly terrific, so much so, that we forget that they're playing fantasy people. When the movie takes on Hollywood proportions, however, it becomes a problem. John Goodman gives by-the-numbers performers as the villainous lawyer out to prevent the Borrowers from revealing his heinous plans. It's an uninventive performance, and somehow Goodman feels out of place in this quaintly British world. The other problem is that the film doesn't quite know whether it's a period piece or not. With cars and toys out of the late forties, we suddenly see a push-button phone and a mobile. It's as if the film makers were afraid of the period setting, and that lack of consistency is a glaring problem. Those elements notwithstanding, The Borrowers, with its keen visual style and occasional old-fashioned sensibilities, is still a delightful and quaintly amusing piece of cinema, and a reminder what some genuine imagination can do in creating such a remarkable and minuscule world."
Paul Fischer

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CRITICAL COUNT
Positive: 2
Negative: 0
Mixed: 2
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THE BORROWERS (G)
(US)

 

CAST: John Goodman, Jim Broadbent, Mark Williams, Hugh Laurie, Bradley Pierce, Flora Newbigin, Tom Felton, Raymond Pickard, Celia Imrie, Aden Gillett, Doon Mackichan, Ruby Wax

PRODUCER: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Rachel Talalay

DIRECTOR: Peter Hewitt

SCRIPT: Gavin Scott, John Camps (based on novels by Mary Norton)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Fenner Trevor Brooker

EDITOR: David Freeman (additional editing: Annie Kocur)

MUSIC: Harry Gregson-Williams (score producer: Hans Zimmer)

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Gemma Jackson

RUNNING TIME: 83 minutes

 

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: PolyGram

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 9, 1998

VIDEO RELEASE: June 16, 1999

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: PolyGram

RRP: $24.95







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