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More weird than wonderful

Take the basic strategy of James and the Giant Peach, add a headache-inducing attack that can safely be categorized as somewhere between hyperactive video game and hallucinatory nightmare, and you’re left with Arthur and the Invisibles.

Not that I didn’t expect a bit of an unusual picture. Arthur, after all, is the work of Luc Besson (The Fifth Element), the French writer/director who often mistakes creativity for outrageousness. Obviously, there are no real rules when it comes to constructing a fantasy world, but after sitting through this picture that has little to no warmth, perhaps, especially if the project is geared towards families, there should be.

The film stars the likable Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Finding Neverland) as young Arthur. Sent to live with his grandparents, he finds grandpa missing and poor grandma (Mia Farrow) about to be evicted from her Connecticut home by a greedy real estate baron.

Following instructions left behind by his missing grandfather, Arthur shrinks himself down to mini-size and enters the tiny kingdom hiding in his front yard (at this point, much like Peach did, things get animated), all in an effort to retrieve some precious rubies that will help with the finances.

Once in smallville, we meet a race of “Minimoys.” These tiny creatures are unusual to say the least, but they do sound familiar. Everyone from Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel and Chazz Palminteri to Jason Bateman, Jimmy Fallon, Snoop Dogg and David Bowie lend a voice for the film. Madonna also gets work, providing the pipes for a curvy elf Princess. And while she thankfully drops the fake English accent, her effort is overwhelmingly drab.

If I sound a bit cranky, it’s because I am. A movie that, for some strange reason took seven years to assemble in France, Arthur and the Invisibles is so-so in the looks department, but then, it seems that every computer animated film released lately (and one per week appears to be the current place) is visually impressive.

What most lack is a good story – and Besson’s tale is no different. While Highmore always shines, the film he’s in here is unfortunately more weird than wonderful. We’re left to ponder if some of this story’s charm got left behind in Europe.

The feature is currently playing at Famous Players Seven in Vernon.

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