Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Borrowers

Somewhere along the line I'd seen the end of this version of The Borrowers before, so it was kind of good to catch up with the remaining eighty or so minutes.

This is a peculiar Borrowers. It owes almost nothing to the original novel except the title and the idea of four-inch people living under the floor of a house (or in the walls) who borrow all manner of things to survive.

It exists in some strange land where the houses and cars are English but the light-switches switch on American style; where the policeman seems to have popped out of a French comedy (with the same kind of gear as a French policeman would wear on point - and he even appears on point a couple of times); where the family who occupy the house are American (though played by British actors) but the Borrowers are English (as are all the other Borrowers they meet later); where the villainous lawyer, Ocious Potter (played with a cartoon kind of manicness by John Goodman) intends to build a set of apartments that would take up a couple of acres in the space of one modest British house. And where every other car you see is painted green; in fact they might all have been painted green. It's a very attractive green, and it predominates throughout, along with ginger wigs (all in need of a quick trim) for most of the Borrowers, and a muted red. That's almost the entire colour palette.

And in one or two scenes the skyscape of the town the story takes place in is so obviously painted it's hard to know quite what the designer's intention was.

Okay, so what are the good points? John Goodman puts up with a heck of a lot of electricution, extermination, being tied up by duct tape and wire, and still manages to give his part plenty of verve. Ron Weasley's father (Mark Williams) appears as the exterminator who seemingly can't make up his mind whether he wants to dispose of the little borrowers or protect them. (This is an ambiguity in the script which leaves Williams high and dry more than once.)

Jim Broadbent plays the father of the borrower family with great energy, Celia Imrie (Mrs Quickly from the first Nanny McPhee movie) his wife, Flora Newbigin his teenage daughter, and Tom Felton his ten-year-old son. Tom Felton - yes, I thought that name rang a bell: it's our old friend Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter series. This was his first movie, and he has a ball.

The special effects are superb: there's never a sense that the borrowers exist in anything but their own tiny world (crammed with heaps of visual jokes, most of which pass too quickly to be taken in on one viewing), or that they really are only four inches tall. And the overall design, odd though it may be, has a quirky charm.

Bradley Pierce also appears in the movie, as the boy who holds the story and the two worlds together. Though it may not be obvious when you see him here, he was the little boy in Jumanji - his big sister was later to become Spiderman's girlfriend: Kirsten Dunst. And even though they played a big sister and little brother in Jumanji, they were actually the same age...
Just one of those bits of trivia!

(The photo is of Tom Felton - when he's not being Draco.)
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