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Hooked to the Silver Screen: Arthur and the Minimoys (2006)

Not nearly as bad as SpongeBob’s Atlantis Squarepantis and not nearly as good as Labyrinth, this is yet another children’s movie with Bowie playing the part of ruler of a magical kingdom. This time his character is animated, however, thankfully, his voice is recognizable.

The story here is the old idea aimed at appealing to young children, especially boys— small beats big, children save grown-ups, fantasy worlds are real for anyone open-minded enough to believe. In this iteration of a story that’s played out in many other movies, the eponymous Arthur has to find the treasure hidden by his missing grandfather to pay off the bad guy who is coming to take his grandmother’s house. Oh yeah— parents are selfish but grandparents are cool, though in need of assistance. To provide that assistance, Arthur deciphers the secret message from his grandfather about how to enter the world of the tiny, elf-like Minimoys, who, as it happens, were also facing an existential threat from the evil Emperor Maltazard, who is Bowie’s character. None of that is extraordinary nor is the relatively early CGI animation, which comes off as crude today.

What is extraordinary is the cast: in addition to Bowie, Mia Farrow, Madonna, Robert DeNiro, Snoop Dogg, Chaz Palminteri and the recognizable-when-you-see him Adam LeFevre all have either live-action or voice roles (it switched between live action and animation). So, there are scenes where Madonna’s animated character acts opposite Bowie’s, which at one point would have been a bigger deal.

Especially with SpongeBob in mind, this isn’t an awful movie but it seems like a waste of the assembled talent. It seems to rely more on an understanding of an average nine-year old boy’s psychology than storytelling. There are jokes and references that seem to be aimed at the parents, but these largely don’t work. Actually some of them seem a little inappropriate— the Snoop Dog character is in a scene that involves the characters consuming thinly-disguised alcohol and drugs. The Madonna character is involved with implicit sexy scenes, promises to “wait” a decade for the 10-year old star— but also gives in twice and kisses him (the whole topic is a metaphor for premarital sex). There’s also an awful lot of violence and some iffy uses of race. I think most or all of these things are supposed to go over the target audiences’ heads, but I didn’t find any of it clever or funny watching the movie as an adult.

The Wikipedia entry about the movie contains some more interesting stories than the movie itself. Among them— it seems there are multiple versions out there. The version I saw and is available on Prime and Disney is the English version of the French version of the movie. Apparently, it was a hit in France. This is supposedly the better version. The French-French version has some different voice actors. The less-good version was hacked apart by Harvey Weinstein and is called Arthur and the Invisibles. The trailer here is for that version. It is apparently out of circulation but entered the public domain after Weinstein went to jail and is on YouTube in its entirety. I’m not in a hurry to see that version. The other interesting story is that there are two sequels. Lou Reed picked up Bowie’s part in the first sequel, and Iggy Pop played a different character in the third. Do you know that early 70s picture of Bowie, Reed and Iggy together, looking like they were up to no good? Yeah, don’t think of that while watching these movies (no, I didn’t watch the sequels).

Good use of Bowie?
I’m a little torn because Bowie’s small but significant role was the highlight of the movie for me. But the overall movie is subpar and it would have been nice had he done this type of thing for a higher quality production. Also, this is yet another example of a movie with multiple singers who don’t sing. Couldn’t Bowie and Madonna have done a duet? Perhaps the best use of Bowie in the movie happened before Bowie’s character appeared — another character uses the phrase, “let’s dance,” and shortly thereafter the opening moments of the song, “Let’s Dance” begin to play. Sadly, the song switches to another song before Bowie starts singing. So close.

I’m going to say that this is not the worst use of Bowie, but it isn’t a good use of Bowie.

Bowie did the voice acting during the decade in which he wasn’t making music but was raising his young daughter. Much as I speculated about his involvement with SpongeBob, I’m guessing he kinda did this for her.

Again, this is not the worst movie, but it isn’t a good movie. Aside from hearing the celebrity voices there isn’t a whole lot going for it, even if its weaknesses aren’t terribly repulsive. I’m giving it one out of four Bowies— a high one, but a one.


And to see where it fits in the ranking summary, click HERE.

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