With elements of The Borrowers and A Bug’s Life, Arthur and the Great Adventure (which is also, rather confusingly, billed as Arthur 3: the War of the Two Worlds, state-side) will certainly appeal to many kids out there, but unlike the recent critical and commercial hits to stem from both Dreamworks Animation and Disney/Pixar, apart from a witty little homage to Star Wars, there is little here to engage an adult audience. Everything is pitched at a child-like level, and many of the flesh and blood grown-up cast give extremely broad and irritatingly OTT performances, even for a kid’s flick. Once again, it’s left to the computer artists to do their best to create a world of wonder, and for the most part, they do an admirable job.
The CG characters integration into the real world is surprisingly impressive, particularly the now-huge and imposing Maltazard (voiced by a less-than-enthusiastic Lou Reed of all people!) whose interaction with both Arthur’s family and the broader human world is as flawless and believable as the crustacean-like aliens in District 9. Highmore (last seen as a young Nigel Slater in the small-screen adaptation of his biography, Toast) once again plays both the live-action and Minimoy-ied Arthur (a transformation achieved by a magic telescope) and gives a pretty likable performance in each world.
There’s little here to suggest Besson’s directorial imprint on the material (although Maltazard visage resembles a slimmed-down version of Zorg’s canine-looking henchmen in the director’s intergalactic yard, The Fifth Element), but many of the action scenes (both in the digital and real world) have an exciting, cinematic flair to them and the live-action sequences (set in a nondescript, small-town 1960’s America) are imbued with a crisp, nostalgic gleam – a vision palette that appears to be a precursor to Besson’s recent big-screen release, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec.
Although Arthur and the Great Adventure is extremely unlikely to give Lasseter and Co. any sleepless nights, there’s enough imagination on display here to keep kids entertained, although with a running time of over 100 minutes, it may test the patience of a very young audience.