The Borrowers - B+
Viewed Feb 15, 1998 at Sony 84th Street

The Borrowers succeeds where Mouse Hunt failed - it actually makes us give a damn what happens next. Mouse Hunt was a triumph of production design -- but (except for one brilliant gag) its humor fell flat, and the plotting was turgid. The Borrowers, on the other hand, is wonderfully paced, and bristled with enjoyable gags. It doesn't have Mouse Hunt's more outlandish touches (like the half-bitten cockroach), but its production design is even more dazzling. With this and Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, Peter Hewitt is laying claim as Britain's closest equivalent to Tim Burton.

The Borrowers are a race of tiny people who live in the houses of "beans" (that's us) and get their necessities by "borrowing" items. (I recall a cartoon show called "The Littles" from my childhood which had the same basic premise.) In this case, the Clock clan, headed by patriarch Pod, live in the house of the Lenders (apparently American, judging by their freezer). However, the nasty Ocious P. Potter (John Goodman, in a truly inspired piece of casting) hoodwinks the Lenders and threatens to demolish the house. Unless of course, the two younger Clocks, separated from their parents, can steal that missing will and deliver it crosstown to their family.

Needless to say, several outlandish set pieces follow. While more than entertaining, they exist mainly to let Hewitt and his crew run riot with their imaginations. What imaginations they are -- we get rocket-propelled roller skates, tape measures as escape devices, and a singularly helpful policeman (Hugh Laurie, in a great cameo role). But the best visual moment is the end where we see a supply room stuffed to the gills with Borrowers. (Though I'm wondering exactly what they were planning to do with all those sharp pointy objects.) Easily the best family film since Matilda.