The Borrowers (1997) starring John Goodman, Flora Newbigin, Tom Felton, Mark Williams, Jim Broadbent, Celia Imrie, Bradley Pierce, Raymond Pickard, Hugh Laurie, Ruby Wax directed by Peter Hewitt Movie Review

The Borrowers (1997)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Flora Newbigin and Tom Felton in The Borrowers (1997)

Lenders Pay Host to Little Borrowers

"The Borrowers" may have been made with children in mind but this is a movie which is as much fun for adults as it is for little people. Adapted from Mary Norton's novels this wonderful movie brings the whole idea of little people that live behind walls and sneak out when they think they are alone to life. With wonderful sets, great effects for the time and some brilliant performances, from the first time we meet the miniscule Pod Clock as he climbs a dental floss rope up on to the table it has us in its spell. It is by no means perfect, it gets repetitive but with so much fun going on the repetitive nature ends up not being that much of an issue.

Pod Clock (Jim Broadbent) and his wide Homily (Celia Imrie), and children Arrietty (Flora Newbigin) and Peagreen (Tom Felton) all live beneath the floorboards of the Lender's home, sneaking out when no one is about to borrow stuff. But when the evil Ocious P. Potter (John Goodman - The Hudsucker Proxy) swindles the Lender's out of their home, forcing them to move, Arriety and Peagreen must do whatever they can to stop him.

John Goodman as Ocious P. Potter in The Borrowers (1997)

In many ways you can lump "The Borrowers" in with the "Home Alone" style movies as we basically have these little guys trying to outsmart the evil Ocious P. Potter with a series of ingenius traps. As such whilst we get the story that Potter is trying to swindle the Lender's out of their inheritance so he can knock down their home and build a new apartment block it does end up being purely about the little Clock family out witting him. It is for that reason that for adults "The Borrowers" does become a little repetitive as whilst we get different locations and a few different people it is a case of Potter being outsmarted in one ingenious way after another often culminating with some form of slapstick comeuppance.

But then "The Borrowers" whilst a movie about the little guys beating Potter is full of wonderful creativity and on so many different layers. The first time we meet Pod Clock climbing the table with his dental floss rope it has you, and the way he winches up his children Arrietty and Peagreen with the aid of the electric mixer is just as good. And so it goes on because we have one imaginative element after another, from the Clocks escaping when they are nearly discovered to their home under the floor boards. And whilst we have the wonderful creativity of the Clock's miniature world within the house thankfully the story takes us out of these confines and gives us more imaginative fun and games including a spray can powered roller skater, you will understand when you watch and I suggest you do.

Of course all this imagination combines with the Clocks, in particular Arrietty and Peagreen trying to not only escape from Potter but at the same time teach him a lesson. And so we have the imaginative ways that Potter ends up being hurt, from tiny tridents hidden under the floors or the classic electrocution as he hits a light bulb with a hammer. But it's not just the Clocks who end up hurting Potter as various accidents such as a run in with some powerful bug foam thanks to Exterminator Jeff leave him comically suffering. Basically much of this comeuppance slapstick is the classic stuff you see in other movies, but it works and is pretty much inoffensive.

What seriously helps "The Borrowers" is that all this creativity comes with some good effects. Yes there are moments when distance shots of Pod clock going all Indiana Jones around the kitchen looks fake, but then you have the great over sized sets such as in the freezer to up on the roof top. And it is because it looks so believable that it sells it to you, you forget that you are watching full grown actors on giant sets and get caught up in all the creativity.

It also helps that the cast make the special effects work and they also make it good fun from Jim Broadbent as Pod Clock right through to Mark Williams who plays Exterminator Jeff and Hugh Laurie as Officer Steady. But there are three performances which do really stand out and the first of which is John Goodman as Potter, such a classical cigar chomping corrupt businessman/ bad guy with a name which makes me think of Lionel Barrymore in "It's a Wonderful Life". Goodman who ends up the fool guy in many a scene pulls off the whole tormented part beautifully, frustrated by these tiny people who outsmart him. And as for the small people both Flora Newbigin as Arrietty and Tom Felton as Peagreen, yes Tom Felton who went on to play Draco in the "Harry Potter" movies, deliver the whole adventure side as they try to escape from Potter's clutches.

What this all boils down to is that "The Borrowers" is simply great fun, not just for young children who will enjoy all the comical slapstick but also for adults with its imaginative sets and series of adventures. It does become repetitive but with so much going on it's impossible not to enjoy it.