The Borrowers

on February 13, 1998 by Susan Lambert
   Third time's the charm with Polygram's "The Borrowers," the latest release from the upstart distributor who was smart enough to move this traditionally good-hearted family fare off last year's holiday schedule, thus taking it out of "Flubber's" ricochet range and shifting it far away from "MouseHunt's" trap. This very English tale, based on the classic novel by Mary Norton, finds a fine balance as the more polite and charming step-child of "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" and "Home Alone" and will hopefully, equally find the audience it richly deserves.
   John Goodman plays Ocious Potter, a lousy lout of a lawyer who swindles a good family, the Lenders, out of their inherited home. Little does he know that it won't be so easy to rid the house--which he plans to demolish--of the other smaller residents--Pod and Homilly Clock and their two children, Arrietty and Peagreen, a family of Borrowers who stand about four inches tall and make their home out of the household items of human beings. When the Clocks are left behind as the Lenders move away, they hatch a plan to expose the dastardly Potter and return the house to its rightful owners.
   Goodman has great fun with his larger-than-life, meaner-than-mean character, but the true fun of this film is the tiny little Borrowers themselves, in particular the young daughter Arrietty, who's lonely and looking for new friends.
   The story moves along quickly and the situations are amusingly extreme, without being flashy or obvious. Despite these charms, the film is a mite too long and decidedly un-hip, meaning it might not play to older kids. However, younger children and nostalgic adults will find "The Borrowers" and entertaining and imaginative diversion. The effects are fine and the filmmaking refreshingly rich for such a "small" movie.    Starring John Goodman, Jim Broadbent and Celia Imrie. Written by Gavin Scott and John Kamps. Directed by Peter Hewitt. Produced by Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. A Polygram release. Comedy. Rated PG for mild peril and some crude humor. Running time: 83 min.
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