The Borrowers

* * * 1/2*

Mary Norton's children's book series, The Borrowers, has been made into several below-average television movies. So, I wasn't too enthused as I entered the theater for the big-screen debut of the minute clan. But I was in for a shock, The Borrowers is actually a thoroughly delightful movie with plenty of good laughs and even some decent special effects.

The Lender family is being thrown out of their longtime home. Their aunt, who owned the property, never left a will. Now, an unscrupulous lawyer, Ocious Potter (John Goodman) plans to demolish the house and replace it with an ultra-modern housing development.

But the Lenders are not alone in their house. Living under the floorboards is a family of Borrowers, 4 inch tall people who make their living as scavengers from the human "beans" above. The Clock family of borrowers is as distressed as the Lenders, especially once they discover the evil Potter actually has a copy of the will which leaves the home to the Lenders.

So it is up to the Clocks (Pod (Jim Broadbent) and Homily (Celia Imrie), along with their kids, Arrietty (Flora Newbigin) and Peagreen (Tom Felton)) to recover the will and save the household. But when Potter learns of the tiny people, he enlists the skills of Exterminator Jeff (Mark Williams) to kill off the clan.

There's plenty of attention to detail in The Borrowers, especially in the furnishings of The Clock family house, made out of lost board game parts and credit cards. The background details are nearly as rich as the entertaining story.

The various predicaments of the Clock family are clever and thrilling. Based on an original story, the screenwriters did a good job at imagining all the potential and unusual perils that could exist for a 4-inch tall person.

As the villain, John Goodman's performance veers on the edge of being over-the-top. But his performance suits the role well, and he does very well in the film's many slapstick moments.

With a nearly seamless mix of oversized sets, bluescreen shots and CGI, the special effects in The Borrowers are very well done. There are a few times when you can spot the effects at work, but none of them are so jarring that you lose the suspension of disbelief.

Hopefully The Borrowers will surpass the curse of being labeled a children-only movie, for it is surprisingly entertaining and fun to watch.

[PG - mild peril and some crude humor] (Polygram)


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