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Arthur and the Invisibles


Stars: Freddie Highmore, Mia Farrow. Voices: Madonna, Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Emilio Estevez, Snoop Dogg, Anthony Anderson, David Bowie, Chazz Palminteri, Jimmy Fallon

Director: Luc Besson

Eleven-year-old Arthur (Highmore), who has never heard of Shakespeare or Julius Caesar(!), lives with his gran (Farrow) - who pines for her long-lost explorer husband - in a Connecticut country home where his often workless parents are occasional visitors.

When gran is threatened with eviction, Arthur follows his grandfather's secret instructions and, in his quest to find hidden rubies that could save the day, ends up 'minimised' in a land of elves beneath the extensive garden surrounding his home.

It's hard to judge what mood is being aimed for, in this French-made mix of animation and live action - especially below ground, where the joky, twee and earnest mingle uneasily together, as Arthur and the local princess (Madonna) battle to find the treasure and stop the evil Malthazard (Bowie) from flooding the underground kingdom (shades of Flushed Away).

It's Arthur who pulls the sword from the stone (of course) but, oddly, it has no major part to play in the confused action that follows, though Dogg and Anderson have fun as dive denizens who serve our heroes with smoking green liquid straight out of Dr Jekyll's laboratory.

Brilliantly coloured, but quite charmless, the film will amuse young children well enough, although its phenomenal voice cast - Dogg and Anderson apart - never kicks into gear. Highmore is less natural than he has been before, Farrow grating and Madonna - in what must have seemed a great casting coup - supplies a voice much too old and worldly-wise for the feisty young princess.

David Quinlan

France 2006. UK Distributor: Momentum. Central Colour.
93 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 28 Jan 2007