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Luc Besson's first major foray into children's animated fare has not been faring too well, both with critics and the box office. While foreign receipts have been kinder, the domestic take for Besson's film as of this writing is less than $14 million. In fact, I don't know one parent in my neighborhood that took their kids to see this film.

I usually don't pay too much heed to such matters, but in this case I have to tell you... that's too bad. Because Besson's film is an absolute delight from start to finish.

While it isn't my favorite animated film of the year (that honor goes to Flushed Away, because it was just so darn fun), Arthur and the Invisibles is still an absolute treat for the whole family. It has a meaty plot, great voice work, and a wonderful and original style that had me breathing a sigh of relief not to be enduring talking animals for a change.

Freddie Highmore, in a fine and perfectly measured performance, stars as Arthur. Arthur has been sent to live with his grandparents while his mother and father spend their time looking for work. It's during his stay with grandmother (a delightful and refreshing Mia Farrow) that Arthur learns about his grandfather's adventures around the globe and his discovery of a race of tiny beings called Minimoys that live on the family farm in harmony with nature.

Think A Bug's Life meets Labyrinth and you're on the right track.

Besson's film is wonderful and timeless (with the exception of a grating Snoop Dogg voice cameo) and will surely find its audience as the years pass. David Bowie provides a great villain, Robert DeNiro is a hoot, and Madonna is surprisingly assured as the Princess of the Minimoys.

Like any good animated film, there are lessons to be learned during the film about loyalty, family, faith, and well... nature. But unlike some animated films of late, Besson never tries to hit kids over the head with these lessons. He simply provides a fun and adventurous plot and let's the morals fall where they may.

Moving effortlessly from live action to animation, Besson has created a dizzying and unique world that is a nice change of pace at the multiplexes. The film is cute, heartfelt, and earnest. Not a bad thing to be in this day and age. Make sure you stay for the credits. They are worth the price of admission all by themselves.


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