The Borrowers is a great family film along the lines of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Darby O’ Gill and the Little People. Its an exception to the general trend of bad kids fantasy flicks Hollywood has been coming out with over the past 20 years. Unfortunately, when this film was released in 1997, it was pretty much ignored due to a terrible advertising campaign so the majority of you have probably never seen nor heard of it. The film is about a family who have been screwed out of their house by an unscrupulous lawyer (John Goodman) who tells them the will that their aunt had written up that gives them the house is gone. In the meantime, there is a family of tiny people (Borrowers) who live in the house and who help save the house from the lawyer’s plans to demolish it.

The first thing that strikes you about The Borrowers is the world the characters inhabit. Its a world where 1930s meets present-day modernity. If you have ever seen any of the Wallace & Gromit shorts or films, the production design will look familiar to you. I liked the filmmakers decision to go with a stylized look as it more effectively draws the audience into the story than if the story had a realistic setting.

The film has a wonderful cast, headed by the very talented and always fun to watch John Goodman. He plays the evil lawyer (an estates lawyer as it turns out) who tries to demolish the family’s house and destroy the Borrowers. After playing Dan Connor in Roseanne for so many years, The Borrowers showcases Goodman’s versatility as an actor. He plays up the greedy arrogance of his character to hilarious effect. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you may notice the sizable number of actors in this film who went on to star in the Potter series. You have Jim Broadbent as the patriarch of the Borrower family (Professor Slughorn in Harry Potter), Mark Williams as the exterminator (Arthur Weasley in Harry Potter), and Tom Felton as the little boy of the Borrower family (Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter). With the exception of Goodman and the family who owns the house, the remaining cast is British.

One of the delightful aspects of The Borrowers are the creative inventions the Borrowers create out of everyday things. Items like batteries, forks, thimbles, etc. are used by the characters to create tools. Their habitat is a mishmash of parts taken from board games, credit cards, cereal boxes, etc. The elaborate action sequences in the film also effectively make use of the characters’ tiny size. A harmless and boring milk bottling conveyor line is turned into a treacherous obstacle for the characters.

Some of the situations border on slapstick Home Alone-esque dumb humor, but I guess thats to be expected in any kids movie. On a completely different note, I have to say something about the use of the law in this movie by the filmmakers. Just because a will has gone missing does not mean the lawyer gets the house. The house would have gone into intestacy and the nearest kin would have received it, which presumably would have been the family. Furthermore, there is a scene where Goodman tries to burn the will, but his lighter is out of fluid so he goes off to find some matches. A will can be destroyed in any number of ways, including tearing it up, which Goodman could have easily done. Of course, had the filmmakers correctly applied the law, there probably wouldn’t be a movie.

The Borrowers is a film that both parents and kids will enjoy. Half the film’s appeal is seeing the inventiveness the filmmakers employ to tell their story. The movie is topped off with a great performance by John Goodman, which makes you sad that he doesn’t get more starring roles in better films these days.

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