Top positive review
15 people found this helpful
Trans-Atlantic take on The Borrowers - not totally succesful but still very good
on 3 January 2006
Unlike the superb BBC serialisation that was faithfully based on Mary Norton's book from the 50's, this film has been updated and an American TV star brought in. Unfortunately the script and plot isn't really quite as good as the original book and the out of place slapstick does reduce the tension somewhat. My son (9) and daughter (11) really liked this film, but I preferred the two BBC 'borrowers' series, first screened in 1993 and 1994 (make sure you get the two DVD set, series one and two - 6 hours of quality children's TV). The BBC series is far darker, being played straight with no slapstick and despite the Borrower's amusing antics and the witty script, it's got many quite tense moments and is all the better for it. The special effects in the film (and much of the BBC series) are actually very good - although a lot of the atmosphere in both is derived from the superb 'miniature' sets.
The BBC series scores though by being set in the original isolated 1920'ish shires countryside, about the time of Norton's childhood, in a period when children were more strictly brought up and would think nothing of keeping big secrets from the adults. This film is set in a UK town around 1956 and so seems quite modern in comparison. However, in any era the Borrower's worst fear, above even cats and rats, is to be 'seen' by a human, after which they know the human will spend all his time trying to find them again (so they will have leave and find a new home). The cast in the film are very good, although Jim Broadbent's character doesn't capture the sensitive and secretive nature of Borrower Pod as brilliantly as Ian Holm (BBC version). Also Penelope Wilson (BBC) just 'is' the timid house proud Homily. Likewise John Goodman doesn't hold a candle to the BBC's strict and rather sinister Sian Philips 'Mrs Driver', scourge of the human boy George unfortunate enough to be left in her care. It's not that the film's bad, far from it, its script and reliance on special effects just limits the actor's a little. In the films favour, it's so different it can easily be viewed as a sequel to the BBC series, and the film is certainly great fun (there's also a British A-list support cast and I particularly enjoyed Ruby Wax's cameo). The films break neck action sequences also make repeat viewing enjoyable.
If you can't decide whether to buy this film even at the knockdown price, try renting first, as the film is well worth a family view or two on a quiet winter's Sunday. Do also have a look at the BBC DVD set. Plus the original 'Borrowers' books are a good fairly easy read as for later preteens. Just a shame the BBC and the film industry didn't continue with a few more of the Borrower's books.