Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Borrowers 5* live 1997 - Jim Broadbent

Preview. What could be better than Mary Norton's books set in 1911, about tiny people who secretly adapt all those missing household doo-dads, such as retractable tape measure for an elevator? a needle for a climbing tool? Bring them to life in present day.

Pete Lender 10 (Bradley Pierce) wants to catch "whoever is stealing our stuff", little things around the house that disappear. Dad Joe (Aden Gillett) and mom Victoria (Doon Mackichan) are worried about a lawyer and selling the house. When pre-school/ work bustle subsides, the frizzy red-haired Borrowers appear: dad Pod Clock (Jim Broadbent), daughter Arrietty (Flora Newbigin), and boy Peagreen (Tom Felton). Villain Ocius P. Potter (John Goodman) says their aunt did not leave a will, they must move out by Saturday. He's building Potter's Apartments there, Pottersville next.

First Rule of borrowing is "Check the way is clear", but Arietty wants to have fun. After Arriety gets "stuck in the freezer" eating ice-cream, almost crushed by ice-cubes, her dad recites "The Borrower Way .. quiet, cautious, inconspicuous, alert, never seen and never heard". Suddenly, a simple vacuum chore unexpectedly off schedule gives them no time to get to emergency stations, sucks the dishes, and Peagreen, up to their ceiling.

Homily (Celia Imrie) regales Arrietty with tales of younger dad "quite "a rogue in his time. Led astray by pals "Minty Branch, Swag Moss, Dustbunny Bin. They were always getting your father into trouble." In "the old days" were families "Overmantles, Furnaces, Rafters", now all gone. Bored, Arrietty sets off exploring, drawn by the sounds of TV in Pete's room, up a clever elevator made of a retractable tape measure.

To put the fate of his family in the hands of a ten-year old Bean (human being) goes against everything Pod was taught and believes, but he has no other choice. The Clock children fall off the moving truck, and get left behind. "They're pretty smart. They're going to be all right. But if anything does happen, there's going to be big trouble."

Potter comes to find the will and funds Mrs Alabaster hid in her house, reciting the conversation in falsetto, so we and the Clock children are up to date. But Potter hears their whispering, and calls the demolition team. Thankfully, his lighter doesn't work to burn up the will, giving the siblings time to abscond with the evidence. With the stethoscope he used on the safe (a thin excuse), he overhears their conversation, breaks into their old home, and calls Exterminator Jeff (Mark Williams). "Insecticide foam fills up every nook and cranny, and burns on contact", even Potter's face. Why does Jeff not move the spout? Potter not move his face? Aw well.


"Amazing .. tiny little people" Jeff is astounded, then angry, when Potter smashes his glass foam cylinder. Chase, escape. "I never knew there was so much world in the world" says Etts at her first rooftop glimpse of the town. "Squished" vs ""Might be squished" is "not much of a choice, is it?" says Peagreen.

Mr Smelly, an old gas-passing bloodhound, is Jeff's "secret weapon, fed on cheese. One sniff of a tiny jacket, he's off. But they didn't walk to the new house, Smelly could only follow them back into the old house. How could he track them to the right inch of the roof and scare them off? Peagreen falls, gets trapped in a clean milk bottle.

Police Officer Steady (Hugh Laurie) arrives to investigate the commotion, rebuffed by Potter's rudeness "courtesy is the glue that holds society together". Now I see the significance of the surname "Lender". Pete brings the Clock parents by bike to the old house, where Pod finds the kids' route traced to the new house.

Spud Spiller conveniently introduces himself to Etts "Innie, a House Borrower, who depends on Beans for a living". He's an "Outie, with a speedy underground vehicle to Double Dutch Dairy, where he knows bottles go for refilling. Pete sees Potter and Jeff chase the milk truck, so follows. In the gigantic automated plant, Spud sees Peagreen's bottle right away. All Boorowers carry a knapsack full of handy paperclips, tooth floss, such like, why doesn't Peagreen rescue himself? He spis around screaming instead of grabbing a rescue rope. Milk would be scalding.

Again, Potter does not move away, this time from a cheese spout directly above. At a secret fist bump "You never told me your dad was an Outie!" before he met Homily. Potter catches them all just at their reunion. spiller provokes Potter "pizza face .. bet you couldn't get a girlfriend" to distract him away from the others. Stomping off, he mocks to Peter "find some friends your own age .. they're about to be cheesed". Rescued, Etts sends Pete to City Hall. Jeff watched stoically as Potter drove over Pete's bike, but pulls up his van (not to be confused "a lot of people do", with an "ice-cream truck") and motions Pete in.

At the Town Hall (not City Hall), he refuses to say "the magic word" to the Clerk (Ruby Wax), so she directs him the long way round. "Is there a faster way?". "Walk quickly". Pete says please and thank you, gets the elevator route. They block the door labelled "Demolition", but Potter shoves them aside. Jeff raises his screwdriver, the demolition sign drops off to show "Supply Room". They get the will back, but Potter traps them instead, and approaches wielding a vacuum. "Nothing wrong with a little sucking up. When the vacuum power goes off, we suspect more Borrowers, but a whole armed platoon descending from the ceiling fan is a good surprise. Who else but Spud, Minty (Bob Goody), Swag (Patrick Monkton), and Dustbunny (Andrew Dunford). "You haven't changed one bit, and I'm so glad". Spud whistles, and cheering crowds overflow the shelves and floor. "They're everywhere!" They call Pod to speechify from a pencil stage.

"Borrowers are quiet, cautious, inconspicuous, alert, brave, and very good at climbing! Consider yourself seen, Bean. We may be small, but Heaven help anyone who thinks he can squish us. By the time the door opens to the Policeman "anything to say in your defense?" "I've been seen", a repeat of Pod's speech gets handcuffs in response. Pete donates green peas to celebratory feast, toasting "old friends". With walnut-shell helmets, Spud and Etts blaze off to anywhere, "as fast as we can go". Credits run beside disbelieving Steady questioning Potter, police laugh hysterically while Potter grins for mug shots over song "Weird", written by Hanson and Desmond Child, performed by Hanson.

Milkman (Dick Ward)
Chauffeur Cueball (George Yiassoumi)
TV Gangster (Alex Winter)
TV Sergeant (Michael Hewitt)
TV Constables (Simon Hewitt, David Freeman)

1 Previews
the music is Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite starts at 1:41
2 Beans & Borrowers ~2-6 pg text resumes (bio + filmography lacks later Harry Potter movies) for 4 actors Goodman, Broadbent, Williams, Laurie (Jeeves' boss) + director Hewitt
3 Making of Narrator ties clips together, voices over. Flora 14 talks over shopping with pals, took 5 auditions "right mix of energy and passion" (director Peter Hewitt). Tom 9 talks over pizza party "get him to stop laughing". Clips show cameras, old book cover. "Faithful to books .. toughened up" (producer Tim Bevan) "Incredible chase movie through this strange world" becomes more about "you want to follow" cute loveable kids. (Hewitt)
Actors comment, in glorious costumes and wigs, after their scenes. Celia "I adore working with children .. honest ,, delight". Jim remembers since age four. Kids in costume. Giant sets and props concerned production designer Gemma Jackson. Costume designer Marie France magnified labels for Homily, driving glove for Pod, cuff for Etts, socks, plasters for elbow pads (bandaids), sock bits, rubber thimbles for shoes.
Bradley, American, from Jumanji with Robin Williams describes meeting Etts. I did not even notice his lack of British accent. Mark's bits. Visual special effects supervisor Peter Chiang works out blue screens and scale 1:14. Pod runs around kitchen in 2 screens joined by computer generated Pod, stunt men do acrobat gymnastics, rolls, flips.
Best bit for Tom was "big pile of dog poo .. not real .. squishy", for Flora "in the Borrower's house .. big props". Huge roller-skate is Spud's speedy car. Disappointment was splatter by "moldy milk with food thickener".
"Everyone wants to see it, grownups and children alike" (Broadbent). Very first screening invited 50 school friends of Tom and Flora. Tom wants to be an action hero, James Bond, like Pierce Brosnan. Flora's mom wants her back in school, but she wouldn't mind doing more acting.
1973 Full - Eddie Albert, Tammy Grimes 1992 Full - Ian Holm, Penelope Wilton, Rebecca Callard Borrowers 1993 Return of the Borrowers Full
Other versions:
2012 The Secret World of Arriety Preview animated, may be truer to book, but I like the eccentric live parents better 2011 BBC Pod (Christopher Eccleston - Dr Who #9) 1992? Steven Fry, Sharon Horgan, Aisling Loftus, Robert Sheehan Languages: Widescreen, Standard (adapted)

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