The Borrowers (PG)
IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Universal; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; iTunes; Movies Anywhere; Vudu; YouTube
This is based on a series of novels I've never read, which began in 1952. There have apparently been numerous TV adaptations over the years, but I think this is the first adaptation I ever saw. It was released theatrically in 1997, though I never saw it in a theater. I don't remember when I first saw it on TV; it could have been anytime in the late 90s or early 00s. Years later, in 2012, I watched an anime movie called The Secret World of Arrietty, which is also based on the novels. By that time, I didn't really remember anything about the 1997 movie, except that I thought Arrietty was cute. Anyway... not too long after I watched the anime movie on DVD, this movie happened to come on TV, so I figured I might as well watch it, to refresh my memory. I should say this is basically a comedy, whereas the anime movie was much more serious.
It begins with a boy named Pete Lender setting up traps around his house, hoping to catch whatever has been stealing small household objects. But his mother doesn't seem to believe things are really disappearing, she thinks they're just being misplaced (mainly by her husband, Pete's father, who is pretty absent-minded). Meanwhile, there's a lawyer named Ocious P. Potter (John Goodman), who tells Mr. and Mrs. Lender that Mrs. Lender's aunt hadn't left a will before she died, even though she'd promised to leave them her house (in which they currently live). Which for a reason I don't understand, means Potter can assume possession of the house, which he wants to tear down to build apartments. So he gives the Lenders til Saturday to move out.
While the Lenders are out, we see three tiny people, Pod Clock and his teenage daughter, Arrietty, and younger son, Peagreen; they're on a "borrowing" expedition. Because they're Borrowers, which means tiny people who live under the floors of a house, and who only come out when no human "beans" are around to see them. They "borrow" things that belong to the beans, so of course they're the ones who've been taking the things Pete has been obsessing about. (It's not really clear to me how it can be called "borrowing" if they never give the things back, but whatever.) Incidentally, I should mention that Peagreen wasn't in the anime movie, and as far as I know he wasn't in the books. Anyway... Arrietty gets into some trouble, but her dad rescues her. Later the three of them return home, where we meet the kids' mother, Homily Clock. (Also incidentally, I never noticed teh anime mentioning the family having a last name.) Arrietty basically gets grounded, because she hadn't been following the rules while they were out borrowing.
Naturally, that night she goes off on her own, and ends up getting caught by Pete. He's surprised to learn of the Borrowers' existence (of course he couldn't have guessed that whatever was taking things was intelligent). And Arrietty is surprised to learn that he doesn't want to squish her. Instead, he informs her that the house is going to be demolished, and offers to help her family relocate, along with his own. The new house is only a mile away, but that's still pretty far, by Borrower standards. And fairly early in the trip, Arrietty and Peagreen fall out of the moving truck. They go back to their old house, where they see Potter find the hidden will that Mrs. Lender's aunt had told him about. They manage to steal it from him, planning to get it to Pete to save the house. However, Potter sees them, and calls in an exterminator to help him try to kill the Borrowers and get the will back.
Meanwhile, of course Pete, Pod, and Homily go back to the old house looking for Arrietty and Peagreen, who were gone by the time they got there. And Arrietty got separated from her brother, but met another Borrower about her age, named Spud Spiller. (This was good, because she'd never met any Borrowers outside her immediate family, and had been worried that there might not be any left in the world. Which is one of the few plot points that this movie shares with the anime movie.) Spiller will help the Clock family in their struggles to reunite and to stop Potter's evil scheme. Well, I don't particularly feel like I've spoiled anything, I've just given a basic idea of the plot. I don't want to spoil any details of the struggles the good guys faced.
So... I wasn't sure what category to put my review in. I went with "fantasy" basically because I doubt Borrowers exist in real life. But other than that, it's basically just a "family" movie. I couldn't tell quite when the movie was set; for the most part it seemed like it could have been around the time the book was written, except for the fact that Potter used a cell phone. I couldn't quite tell where the movie was set; there were characters with both American and British accents (including Hugh Laurie playing a rather amusing police officer). Um... I guess all the actors were decent, and the movie was reasonably amusing. A bit too silly for my tastes, in some ways, but not bad. Not sure how much the story diverges from the book(s), but presumably somewhat. And certainly there were plenty of differences from the anime (which I definitely liked better than this). Arrietty remains my favorite part of the movie, though she's not as good a character as she was in the anime (and Shawn was definitely a better character in that than Pete was in this). But... this was an okay movie, anyway. And the ending was a lot more fun than that of the anime, at least....