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Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
Local opening date: 1/12/2007
Reviewed by Martha Baker
There's no reason a fairy tale cannot be science fiction - after all, if fairies and their ilk don't classify as fiction, even a scientific version of same, what does? Arthur is real fiction, however, not science, but he's interested in science, especially in the science as practiced by his explorer grandfather. Archibald, an engineer, kind of disappeared, leaving Arthur little more than his giant scrapbook, full of clues for finding a treasure. But a chief clue is on a soffit, a quote from one W. Shakespeare to the effect that "Some words may hide others."

Arthur lives with his grandmother, who was a nurse, because his parents are in the city, working, and way too busy to do much more than call him on his birthday. Arthur has an English accent, explained quickly - if unconvincingly -- by a reference to an English school his parents sent him to for a year.

Arthur very much needs to find that treasure, a cache of rubies, for the idyllic farm where he lives with his slightly dotty grandmother and his dog Albert, is about to be taken over by the evil real estate developers - it's the Sixties, after all. And why wouldn't they want this lovely place? The grass is not only greener, but the foxglove is pinker. Everything is clean and perfect here, perfectly lovely.

But below, down in the world the clues lead to, is a population of little people, very, very, eensy-beansy, little people called Minimoys, so tinky-winky as to be invisible. These fairy folk each have three fingers and just might offer a clue as to the treasure. Once he's reduced to their size, Arthur has to join the sword-wielding army led by a beauteous princess to save their land from an evil wizard. He finds that one tribe, just as Grandfather Archibald said, is incredibly small and one incredibly tall. Only together could they be whole -- yin and yang.

There aren't any new morals to this fable, but there are new uses of CGI technology combined with live action. Freddie Highmore stars as Arthur, and Mia Farrow plays Grandmother. The Invisibles come to life through the voice talents of Anthony Anderson, Jason Bateman and David Bowie, and the Brothers Corddry (Rob and Nate). Robert DeNiro, Emilio Estevez, Jimmy Fallon, Harvy Keitel, Chazz Palminteri, and Snoop Dogg add their voices to the array.

Arthur and the Invisibles was directed by Luc Besson, better known for La Femme Nikita and The Fifth Element. The movie is funny. When the king says, "Cover me," he gets a blanket. Arthur is also moralistic; after all, after all the keys and clues and deadlines, it reminds us that our hearts are our strongest weapons.

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