[Screen It]


(1998) (John Goodman, Jim Broadbent) (PG)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
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Mild None *Moderate None Minor
Smoking Tense Family
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Children's Adventure: With the help of a normal-sized boy, a family of miniature people tries to retrieve a will that will prevent a greedy lawyer from demolishing the house in which they secretly live with the boy and his family.
Ten-year-old Pete Lender (BRADLEY PIERCE) is sure that someone or something is taking items from his family's home. Since so many things can't ever be found, he's sure there's an explanation beyond them being misplaced. His parents, Joe (ADEN GILLETT) and Victoria (DOON MACKICHAN), however, have bigger concerns. The house they're living in belonged to their late aunt, but since they can't find her will, greedy lawyer Ocious P. Potter (JOHN GOODMAN) has assumed the property and plans to tear it down.

Unbeknownst to the "human beans," there is a family of miniature people, the borrowers, who also live in the house and are the ones responsible for borrowing those items that often turn up missing. While mom Homily Clock (CELIA IMRIE) stays behind and cares for their home, father Pod Clock (JIM BROADBENT) takes their kids Arrietty (FLORA NEWBIGIN) and her younger brother Peagreen (TOM FELTON) on borrowing expeditions through the house when the "beans" aren't home. After Pete captures and befriends Arrietty, and informs her of the pending demolition, however, the borrowers must trust him to safely move them to their new home. A moving mishap, however, separates the family.

As Pete, Pod, and Homily head back to "rescue" the kids, Arrietty and Peagreen return to the old house where they discover that Potter has the will and is heading off to City Hall to authorize the demolition. After the kids "borrow" the will from Potter, he hires Exterminator Jeff (MARK WILLIAMS) to "take care of" his problem. From that point on, Pete and the borrows try to stop Potter any way they can and get some help from a local constable, Officer Steady (HUGH LAURIE) and Spiller (RAYMOND PICKARD), a teenage, outdoor borrower.

If they liked the "Home Alone" movies or the recent "Mouse Hunt" they will. The same holds true if they're familiar with the novels from which this is based, or more simply, if they've seen the commercials for this film.
For mild peril and some crude humor.
  • JOHN GOODMAN plays a cartoon-like villain who lies to the Lenders so that he can take over their property for his own gain. He also talks back to a police officer and tries to capture and later kill the borrowers.
  • The cast members who are the borrowers play an essentially innocuous family group that borrows items so that they can live their lives as "normally" as possible.
  • BRADLEY PIERCE plays a ten-year-old kid who tries to help the borrowers and save both his and their home.


    OUR TAKE: 8 out of 10
    Long a favorite with children worldwide and based on the 1952 novel by Mary Norton (that subsequently launched four sequels), "The Borrowers" is a delightful tale that should please both children and adults alike. Norton, who had two earlier works collectively adapted as "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" in 1971, would probably have been pleased with this adaption. Perhaps a little short on character, but long on adventurous fun, this is an Indiana Jones type story created for the little ones.

    Young kids love stories and/or movies that deal with little people since -- well, since they're little people themselves. Instantly identifying with the tiny characters as other "kids" (although some are adults) and the giants as adults (or parents), kids are immediately drawn into these stories. From early works like "Gulliver's Travels" to the "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" series, children have always delighted in seeing a world of miniature people. Of course, adults share that fascination, and thus their attraction to those works as well as other stories such as 1966's "Fantastic Voyage" and the radioactive induced "The Incredible Shrinking Man" from the paranoia-filled 1950's.

    Such stories and films are fun because they show a world where "regular" looking people are surrounded by giant-sized items that in our world are seemingly small and inconsequential. Yet to the characters in films like "The Borrowers" those items, such as dental floss, used birthday cake candles, and tape measures are essential, if not lifesaving tools and commodities.

    While an oversized world filled with miniature people is one of this film's draws, an equally strong element is the cliffhanger aspect that permeates the plot. Much like a child-oriented version of those "Indiana Jones" movies, this film has a wild assortment of precarious moments in which the little characters continually find themselves.

    For instance, an adventurous scene set quite early in the movie is as much fun as any you'd find in any of the "Indiana Jones" films. In it, we're introduced to the Clock family much the way we first met Harrison Ford's now famous character. Instead of searching for ancient artifacts, however, the borrowers are on a precarious mission to replace something extremely important to them -- a AA battery that powers their "borrowed" string of Christmas lights that illuminate their home. While that may sound boring, it's anything but as they much traverse the obstacle laden kitchen setting and stage a rescue attempt inside a freezer. There they must not only avoid human detection, but also an avalanche of boulder-sized ice cubes that are on their way down toward them through an ice maker chute. And you thought Ford had it bad with that one lukewarm boulder.

    The whole extended scene that goes on for several minutes, not only introduces us to the story's elements, but it also immediately lets us know what's in store for us -- a wild, cliffhanger ride. The film certainly delivers, and that opening sequence and many other moments are quite thrilling and should simultaneously thrill and please children, their parents, and any other adults who may be in the audience.

    Director Peter Hewitt, who last helmed the 1995 film "Tom and Huck" (and earlier directed "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey"), knows to keep the film continuously moving forward and he rarely takes his foot off the accelerator. While some may have hoped for a little more focus on characterization, Hewitt knows his core audience and understands that they want the wild ride that he so proficiently delivers. Although screenwriters John Kamps and Gavin Scott had little prior cinematic experience (Kamps adapted the "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" story for the big screen), Norton gave them a good head start and they certainly don't fail in providing the film with many fun moments.

    The visual effects and production design are both first-rate as they create an entirely believable world where these little people live. Peter Chiang and Digby Milner have done some eye-popping work by photographically superimposing the actors in miniature in a real-sized world (with the help of cinematographers John Fenner and Trevor Brooker), and the effect is nearly perfect throughout.

    Likewise, production designer Gemma Jackson's work is outstanding in the creation of big-scale versions of our ordinary little belongings. The Borrower's world is intricately detailed, and makes fun use of our everyday items we take for granted. Examples include a Discover credit card used as a bedroom door, dental floss that substitutes for mountain climbing ropes, and a jet powered roller skate that's propelled by a spray can and is used to move about under the city.

    Much of Jackson's work seems inspired by some previous Terry Gilliam films (such as "Brazil"). Set in London, yet mixing products and appearances from a wide range of years, the film never ceases to be fun to watch. The cars are from fifty years ago, yet the refrigerator has a modern ice maker and Bryers ice-cream inside it. The TV, while old as the hills, works from a remote control, and John Goodman carries a cell phone that looks as antiquated as the cars, if that were possible. It all adds to the fun, whimsical feel the movie continuously exudes.

    Some viewers may compare this film with the recent Dreamworks release, "Mouse Hunt," and that's somewhat of a reasonable comparison. Both involve miniature "heroes" (one being a mouse) and both have creative set designs and a fun cinematic look also inspired by the old Warner Brothers Looney Tunes cartoons. Yet while "MH" was pretty good, "The Borrowers" avoids much of the "Home Alone" type scenes, the darker macabre humor, as well as the subtle sexual material, thus making this a better choice for younger kids.

    As in that other film, the performances are adequate with Goodman (of TV's "Roseanne" and the recent "Blues Brothers 2000") playing a cartoon-like villain who gets his comeuppance. Like any similar character who's threatened Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird, or other such characters in the past, the audience enjoys seeing the "little guy" foil the villain's goals. The rest of the cast does an okay job, but their characters aren't developed much more than to let us know they're capable of surviving the many predicaments they're confronted with. While it would have been nice to see them more fleshed out, that's not what this movie's really about -- besides there's certainly not enough time to spend focusing on such "insignificant" elements.

    As the characters stand, they serve their purpose in helping to keep the story continuously moving forward. Consequently, parents shouldn't be too worried about their little ones getting restless while watching this. A clever, exciting film that's as much fun for the adults as it is for the kids, "The Borrowers" should make for a decent family outing to the theater. We highly enjoyed it and thus give the film an 8 out of 10.

    Some perilous adventure scenes and the accompanying music are all that parents really need to be concerned about with this movie. While school age kids will probably love all of that, younger kids may find some of the material a bit too suspenseful and perhaps scary (all of which depends on your child's capacity to handle "fun," suspenseful scenes). Playing much like an Indiana Jones movie, there are many close calls for the little people, and only you will know if your child can handle such moments. Beyond that, there's nearly nothing else that's objectionable. There's the obligatory bodily functions moments, such as when Peagreen falls into a chest high pile of dog poop, or when we get to hear a dog farting on two different occasions. Since many kids will probably want to see this film, we suggest that you look through the content to make sure it's appropriate for them.

  • None.
  • Although neither bloody nor gory, Peagreen falls from a truck and lands in a chest high pile of dog poop.
  • Some moments also include the sound of a dog repeatedly farting.
  • Potter has both as he lies to the Lenders about the lack of a will so that he can take over their property for his own gain. He also talks back to a police officer who questions what he's doing.
  • Some viewers may see the borrowers as having both as they might find their "borrowing" more akin to stealing.
  • There are many "harrowing" moments where different humans nearly discover, capture, or injure/kill the borrowers. The youngest of kids may find many of them to be rather suspenseful or even scary, but kids of school age probably won't have too many problems with the material that includes:
  • Pod must rescue his kids from a freezer, and must protect Arrietty and himself when ice cubes start careening down an ice maker chute toward them.
  • An earthquake-like scene begins as the borrowers sit down for dinner. Everything shakes and Peagreen is suddenly sucked up toward the ceiling of their home as we then realize the humans are vacuuming the carpet.
  • We briefly see Arrietty walk through dimly lit "corridors" in the house that may be a bit scary for younger kids, but nothing bad or scary occurs.
  • Arrietty and Peagreen precariously hold onto the edges of a rusty hole in the bottom of a truck. They eventually fall out, and Peagreen is nearly squashed by the truck's enormous tire.
  • Several scenes involve Potter trying to capture Arrietty and Peagreen. In one, he pulls up the floorboards and his enormous hand comes close to grabbing Peagreen. In others, a gargantuan hammerhead blasts enormous holes in the walls that nearly hit the kids as they try to run away from it.
  • Arrietty and Peagreen must run away from the exterminator's foam "that burns on contact" and that quickly "chases" after them through their corridors. The exterminator then accidentally sprays the foam on Potter's face who then screams in pain (but is okay).
  • Peagreen gets stuck on the claw of a hammerhead and is pulled out from the wall and flung across the room. He lands on a hanging light bulb and Potter tries to get him but can't. After the lightbulb is turned on and begins to "burn" Peagreen, Potter grabs a hammer and tries to hit him, but the boy just manages to escape. Potter, however, is electrically shocked when his hammer touches a broken, but live light bulb.
  • Peagreen finds himself on an assembly line stuck in an empty milk bottle that's about to be filled. Arrietty and Spiller try to rescue him throughout the various stages of that filling process. Younger kids may get nervous as the bottle fills up with milk and a cap is put on, trapping Peagreen under the milk's surface. Meanwhile, Potter smashes bottles as they come down the assembly line and gets closer to hitting the one on which Arrietty and Spiller are standing.
  • Potter tapes the borrowers underneath a cheese nozzle that will drown them in liquid cheese. As the clock counts down toward the release of the cheese, Pete rushes to their rescue. Potter also drops Spiller into some sort of assembly line device, but we later see that the miniature boy is okay.
  • Potter tries to suck up the borrowers with a vacuum cleaner.
  • Pete briefly watches an old TV movie that shows a villain with a handgun.
  • Phrases: "Little squirt," "Shut up," "Ugly" and "Smelly" (said by the siblings to each other), "Moron," "Idiot," "Freak," "Bug off" and "Fatso."
  • There are several moments where Potter or the exterminator bang holes through the walls with a hammer (to get to the will or Arrietty and Peagreen).
  • Since it's played for laughs, we should mention the following: Potter tries to hit Peagreen who's holding onto a hanging lightbulb. The boy escapes, but the broken lightbulb electrically shocks Potter. Smoke rises from his collar and his hair stands on end and he's okay afterwards, but since it gets some laughs, kids might get the wrong idea about electricity.
  • None.
  • There are some adventurous, suspenseful and/or ominous themes that might be scary to the youngest of kids, but others will probably find that it only adds to the "fun" of it all.
  • None.
  • All we heard was 1 damn and 1 use of "Good God" as exclamations.
  • None.
  • Potter smokes a cigar on several occasions.
  • The Clocks worry about their children from whom they've been separated.
  • There's an ever-so-brief mention that the Lenders aunt died, but no one appears to be upset over that.
  • Whether such little people really exist -- after all, how does one explain all of the everyday items that just disappear from our homes?
  • Whether these little people are just borrowing items, or are actually stealing them.
  • There are several moments where Potter or the exterminator bang holes through the walls with a hammer (to get to the will or Arrietty and Peagreen).
  • Arrietty stabs Potter with a sharp object to keep him from catching Peagreen (a pinprick to him).
  • The exterminator accidentally sprays insecticide foam "that burns on contact" onto Potter's face. He screams in pain as it boils and bubbles on his face, but is okay moments later.
  • Potter is electrically shocked when his hammer touches a live, broken lightbulb. We then hear the hammer hit him on the head.
  • Potter breaks empty milk bottles that pass by on an assembly line as the one that Arrietty and Spiller are standing on nears him.
  • Pod sends a straight pin flying into Potter's butt and others then spray some sort of insecticide spray into his face.

  • Reviewed February 8, 1998

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