The movie clocks in at a mere 1:34 and has good pacing throughout. The voice cast works well even if some of the choices appear to be type cast (David Bowie as the evil nemesis character reminds me of Labyrinth).
The movie opens with Arthur (Freddie Highmore) and his grandmother (Mia Farrow) enjoying a wonderful day in 1950's Connecticut. We soon find out that it is young Arthur's tenth birthday and his parents are in the city (New York?) and can't make it home to see him. We also find out that his grandfather vanished a few years back while on an expedition. Arthur makes a wish after blowing out his candles and goes to bed.
At this point in the story we know:
The next day an "evil" land developer arrives at the house to foreclose, unless Arthur's grandfather can show up in 48 hours to sign some papers and pay off some debts the house will be gone and the farm will be bulldozed to make room for condominiums. This is the point where you begin to say, "huh, what?" How were they able to send Arthur to boarding school across the ocean if they are so deeply in debt? Who built condo's in the 50's?
While selling off some of grandfather's antiques Arthur discovers something, a map. Not just any map, a map of the land of the invisibles and a secret treasure of rubies. At this point you are probably asking yourself again, "huh, what?" After all, that was in Africa right? What good will a map to the land of the invisibles be in Connecticut? You might think that at first but it quickly becomes apparent that the world of the invisibles was brought back from Africa with Arthur's grandfather. "Huh, what," you say? Yes, Arthur's grandfather did that most horrible of things, he transplanted a tribe from one continent to another on a whim!
Later that very evening, the one evening every ten months when the gateway between worlds can be opened, a strange thing happens. While Arthur is following his grandfather's secret clues to cross into the world of the invisibles, the tribe of tall men shows up. Yep, deep in rural Connecticut a tribe of tall African men has been living! Yep, it's another one of those, "huh, what?" moments.
With their help Arthur ends up in the land of the invisibles, a land where everyone looks like the child of David Bowie's character in Labyrinth... Wait a minute? Did I say that already? At any rate, shortly after Arthur gets his new clothes and wild hair he pulls a sword from a stone, battles off a group of marauders and meets the princess (Madonna) who he forms an instant crush on. I'm not going to get into the 30+ age difference between the voice actors because that is just creepy! They do work well together and that is all that really matters, right?
So, along with the princess's younger brother, the three of them head to the land of "M", a character that is so evil no one wants to say his name. The adventure to get there is well animated and enjoyable but now comes a new plot problem. See, while Arthur is shrunk down to the size of a bug his grandmother is worried sick about him. she calls the police to look for him and she wanders the area outside the house yet... She never sees those real tall African tribesmen guarding the portal to the other world (or should I say the shrink-unshrink device).
The next day Arthur's parents arrive and are shocked that old grandma could go and lose their son like that! It hasn't been a few good years for grandma. First she lost her husband and now her grandson! If only she would look over by the garden gnome where all those big tall African tribesmen are hanging out! Which begs the next question: "If grandfather entered the world of the invisibles on his own several years ago why didn't she find the shrin-unshrink device and the tribesmen all those years ago?"
Arthur and company eventually make it to the land of "M" and are quickly captured. While the princess and "M" are talking we learn a few more things that make you say, "huh, what?" It turns out that "M" was once an invisible just like the rest of them but he went a questing when they got to their new home and some bad things happened to him to change him. So... Ready for this? It's all grandfather's fault that he is the evil man he is! Yes! The evil white man brought the invisibles over as slaves/pets to amuse himself and then they suffered rebuilding their world in Connecticut! Why am I reminded of Happy Feet all of a sudden?
While captured we also find, ready for it? Arthur's grandfather! He was captured years ago and has been using his engineering skills to stay alive. In a way he was selling his knowledge to stay alive. I know there is a deeper message in that about the value of the individual as opposed to the value of the tribe but, if he was willing to uproot two tribes for his own enjoyment why would he be honorable and not teach M's people advanced engineering skills to wipe out the invisibles?
In a moment of good humor "M" grants them release and a 90 second head start before he floods them all out. Yes, invisibles one enemy is water because they can not swim. so the band of invisible sized people run and run and eventually make it back to the main kingdom.
Arthur and his grandfather go back through the portal just in time to delay the evil businessman from taking the farm. While this is going on Arthur manages to find where M's kingdom lies in the yard which also tells him where the rubies are! A happy Arthur soon arrives with the gems and the businessman is payed off.
That night we have a dinner scene where everyone (well, except the invisibles) are enjoying a meal together. Yes, even the real tall African tribesmen are there!
With all of that said I must tell you that the movie was enjoyable and my daughter loved it. The action moved at a good pace and there was good humor placed throughout. Unlike some animated movies out there today there were no "double entendres" mixed into the dialogue. At a very short 90 minutes this movie is just long enough to entertain and not too long as to cause excessive bathroom breaks by your small bladdered companions.