Luc Besson might be in his (fifth) element directing Arthur and the Invisibles; the rest of us, though, will be wishing this computer-animated children's fantasy lived up to its name and disappeared. Set in a secret land of miniature hobbits, it's a hectic, disorienting adventure awkwardly pitched towards both US and European sensibilities. For all the spectacular imagery on display, meanwhile, its primary point of interest is an electic voice cast featuring such pop icons as Madonna, Snoop Dogg and David Bowie.
With only hours to stop his grandmother's farm being repossessed, 50s schoolboy Arthur (Freddie 'Finding Neverland' Highmore) hits on a foolproof scheme - find the legendary elf world located in the garden and the cache of treasure it purportedly contains. Reduced to insect size and transformed into a pointy-eared sprite, the now-cartoon Arthur finds an unexpected ally in feisty princess Selenia (Madonna). But he has reckoned without the evil wizard Maltazard (Bowie) and his army of mosquito-riding warriors...
"A FEAST FOR THE EYES"
Unfolding at a pace only a hyperactive infant would appreciate with a madcap script that makes the very similar Ant Bully look positively restrained in comparison, Besson's labour of love is a feast for the eyes but leaves the imagination distinctly undernourished. Rare vocal contributions from Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel get lost in the crush, while periodic returns to the "real" world prove jarringly unwelcome. Particularly regrettable are the period anachronisms, Snoop Dogg's Rasta clobber and Arthur's jokey reference to speed cameras irritatingly inconsistent with the film's Norman Rockwell detail.
Arthur And The Invisibles is released in UK cinemas on Friday 2nd February 2007.