Hey, kids, there's a magical world right in your own backyard, if writer-director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Professional) is to be believed. Who knows who could be hanging out there, in computer-animated form? Maybe you'll meet Mean Streets stars Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel. (Together again as sprites!) Or maybe you'll end up in a cool club run by none other than Snoop Dogg, who spins pumping disco hits, even though the movie is set in 1960. What? That doesn't make any sense? Oh well, time for the next scene. Wheee!
In fact, very little about Arthur And The Invisibles, a mostly animated kiddie adventure based on a series of books by Besson (which in turn were based on a "universe" by Céline Garcia) makes sense, as either plot or spectacle. Freddie Highmore stars as a kid staying with his grandmother (Mia Farrow), who lives in a house bursting with clues about his grandfather's disappearance. Sadly, Farrow stands to lose her home (durned evil bankers), prompting Highmore to shrink himself down to thumbnail size with the help of some friendly African natives. (Not a typo.) Once there, he's transformed into a strapping hunk of a "Minimoy" (which is apparently what happens when hobbits fuck Smurfs) and charged with saving a magical backyard kingdom from an evil despot (David Bowie).
Jimmy Fallon lends some wacky sidekick support to Highmore's animated adventures, but our hero's attention keeps drifting to a tight-bottomed princess who stirs something in him he hasn't felt before. Madonna provides the heroine's voice, and yes, hearing the fortysomething songstress act cool and seductive opposite a prepubescent boy is as creepy as it sounds. Ultimately, it's just another ingredient in the film's sloppy stew, sloshing next to the seen-it-before animation, the endlessly explained (but still nonsensical) mythology, the overplayed songs (more than one borrowed from Pulp Fiction), the poor dubbing, and the halfhearted stabs at childlike wonder. It's a film for kids who want to know what headaches feel like.