Although Japanese filmmaker and animation virtuoso Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away) serves only on the periphery as co-writer and production supervisor, his soulfulness still radiates through The Secret World of Arrietty, a hand-drawn adaptation of Mary Norton's ageless kid-lit series The Borrowers, about 4-inch-high humanoids who live beneath the floorboards of those dangerous “human beans.” Fourteen years old and literally knee-high to a kitty cat, inquisitive emblem of purity Arrietty (voiced by Bridgit Mendler) ventures to the idyllic rural home above to forage with her somber father, Pod (Will Arnett, playing against type). Among her pop's golden rules of “borrowing” is that only necessary items that won't be missed should be pilfered. Grappling to ledges with a fish hook and string, a grand nighttime kitchen heist — the front-loaded film's most thrilling sequence — yields one measly sugar cube, which Arrietty loses when spooked by the gaze of Shawn (David Henrie), a giant boy with a bum ticker who has been sent to the house for pre-op care. Back in the teenier kitchen, anxiety-prone mom Homily (Amy Poehler) flips out over her daughter being spotted by the sickly enemy, who is obviously destined to become Arrietty's only friend and unspoken first crush. Perhaps too fittingly small-scale, the story is trouble-free to the point that it feels slight, but the animation is beautiful, as in a scene when Shawn matter-of-factly explains the permanence of death to Arrietty while lying in a field that's alive with lush watercolors.
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