We've already delivered our thoughts on Studio Ghibli's latest outing upon its Japanese Blu-Ray release, with an evaluation that perhaps feels a little harsh in retrospect. Since then of course we've seen this latest offering, Arrietty, released on both DVD and Blu-Ray here in the UK - what's more, it also has its own English language dub created right here in the UK for our particular audience, making for a perfect opportunity to revisit the film with a more specific focus upon this release.
Based on Mary Norton's much-loved book "The Borrowers", albeit shifted from merry old England to the outskirts of Tokyo, Arrietty is a considered and loving take on its tale of a family of "little people" as their relative peace and quiet is disrupted by the arrival of a young boy named Sho to the house within which they reside. No sooner has he arrived to convalesce at his aunt's country home than Sho spots Arrietty herself, beginning a chain which causes all sorts of upheaval for herself and her family as it soon becomes clear that not everybody within the household is charmed by the idea of having tiny people living under their floorboards and "borrowing" what they need to survive.
Having described the film as stuffy and overly serious first time around, I have to admit that a second viewing of Arrietty sat much better with me - the film still struggles to encapsulate every aspect of its tale as a single, stand-alone movie, leaving rather a lot unexplored in its wake, but there is a sense of fun and occasional playfulness in its story-telling that somehow managed to evade it the first time around. Arrietty certainly isn't a wall-to-wall comedy by any stretch of the imagination, but it does have an undercurrent of entertainment above and beyond its visual wonders, which impress once again with their beauty and attention to detail on this gorgeous UK Blu-Ray release.
This brings us to the UK-produced dub for the film, and the good news here is that in terms of actual voice acting it's a solid affair - Saoirse Ronan makes for a perfect Arrietty throughout, Mark Strong's Pod sounds largely distant and disinterested in exactly the way the role required in comparison to the original Japanese take on the character, and Olivia Colman has a great turn as Homily. The rest of the supporting cast also does a great job, leaving our only question mark hanging over the voice of Sho himself, with Tom Holland perhaps trying a little too hard to sound like a lonely, sickly young boy.
However, what threatens to undermine these mostly high-quality takes on the character's voices is the overall quality of the dub's audio - throughout the film it sounds very much like something recorded in a studio and overlaid across the rest of the movie, with a slightly tinny and hollow feel to it that is anything but natural. Although this issue never manages to completely overshadow the film or its UK dub, it is rather a shame that the "budget" feel of the dub's recording stands out when it should be the one item on the agenda which is completely unnoticeable.
Thankfully, this issue doesn't extend to the rest of the soundtrack - as we mentioned in our first look at the film, Arrietty uses its background audio to great effect when it comes to depicting the huge world which towers over the Borrowers, and Cécile Corbel's soundtrack only proves to be more gorgeous after repeated listens). This UK release's package is rounded off with a nice set of extras, and a deluxe edition which bundles a fistful of postcards inside its pretty packaging and the movie on both DVD and Blu-Ray.
When all is said and done, Arrietty is another great family film from Studio Ghibli - sumptuous to behold and an enjoyable slice of entertainment. It may not live long in the memory like some of the studio's absolute classics, but it's still a worthy purchase for fans of their output and a good adaptation of a classic English novel. Given its heritage, it's also great to see the film granted a "proper" English dub for its UK audience, which does a decidedly good job of helping the story along for the most despite the clear (and disappointing) impression that it was recorded on a tight budget.
English (UK) and Japanese audio with English subtitles. Extras consist of trailers, TV spots and storyboards for the film, interviews with Hayao Miyazaki and director Hiromasa Yonebayashi and a promotional video for Cécile Corbel's "Arrietty's Song".
The DoublePlay "Deluxe Edition" of Arrietty contains the film on both DVD and Blu-Ray, as well as a set of five postcards.