The Borrowers (1997 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Peter Hewitt|
|Produced by||Tim Bevan
|Written by||Gavin Scott
|Based on||The Borrowers by
|Music by||Harry Gregson-Williams|
|Distributed by||PolyGram Filmed Entertainment|
The Borrowers is a 1997 British–American live-action fantasy comedy film based on the children's novel of the same name by author Mary Norton. In 1998 it was nominated for the title of Best British Film in the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards, but lost to Gary Oldman's Nil by Mouth. The film also picked up another two nominations and one win in awards. Some of the film's scenes were shot on location in the village of Theale, near Reading, Berkshire, where all of the buildings and shops in the High Street were painted dark green.
Young Pete Lender (Bradley Pierce) is setting up traps around his house, explaining to his parents that things in their house are being stolen, despite his parents believing otherwise. However, it turns out that a family of tiny people ("Borrowers"), are living in the house, borrowing stuff without being seen. Pod Clock (Jim Broadbent) and his children, Arrietty (Flora Newbigin) and Peagreen (Tom Felton), make their way through the kitchen to "borrow" the radio's battery. Arrietty, while treating herself with some ice cream in the freezer, is accidentally shut inside just as the Lenders return. Pod manages to rescue Arietty, but jams the ice cube tube in the process and is forced to leave one of his gadgets behind, which is found by Mr. Lender. Meanwhile, the will of Mrs. Lender's aunt Mrs. Allabaster is the only proof that the house rightfully belongs to the family, yet their lawyer Ocious P. Potter (John Goodman) cannot find it and has already made plans to demolish their house in order to build condominiums on the land, and the Lenders have until Saturday to move away.
Arrietty is fed-up of being shut indoors and decides to explore but is trapped by Pete, who is actually astonished to discover the Borrowers. Pete also explains to Arrietty that the house is being demolished due to the absence of Mrs. Allabaster's will, meaning that both families will have to move. After Arrietty explains the situation to her family, Pod reluctantly agrees to have the family move to the new house, despite being somewhat upset that Arrietty has defied so much about the way of the Borrowers. Pete returns Pod's gadget. Unfortunately, during the journey, Arrietty and Peagreen fall out of the moving truck and make their way back to the old house, where they find the new house on a map.
However, Potter turns up and finds the will hidden in a safe inside the wall. It turns out that Mrs. Allabaster had stated that she did not trust banks and preferred to keep the will in the house, something Potter deliberately kept from his clients. But as he tries to burn it, Arrietty and Peagreen recover the will, determined to save the house for both the Lenders and the Clocks. Upon seeing the Clocks' underground home, Potter calls the local exterminator Jeff (Mark Williams), but all he does is hammers holes in the wall and burn Potter's face with foam. Potter blames Jeff when he gets electrocuted by the broken light. The kids manage to escape. Pod and his wife Homily discover that their children are missing when they get back to the old house but find the map and decide to go back to the new house.
While Potter and Jeff track Arrietty and Peagreen with a bloodhound, Peagreen falls into a milk bottle and is taken to the Dairy, with Potter, Jeff and the dog chasing the van. Arrietty feels like she's lost Peagreen but an outdoor borrower named Spiller helps her find him with roller-skate car. They fail to save Peagreen from the milk but manage to escape from Potter by pouring cheese liquid all over him. Pod and Homily, with Pete's help, track them to the dairy, Pod rescues Peagreen from drowning and the whole family reunite. Unfortunately, Potter catches them, steals the will and tapes them to the cheese machine, intending to drown them in the liquid cheese. Spiller cheeks Potter to the point that Potter dumps him in another machine, apparently killing him. Just before the cheese can hit, Pete arrives and swings the cheese tap the other way.
With Jeff's help, Pete follows Potter to City Hall to stop him arranging the demolition, while the Clocks follow them on the roller-skate. The receptionist (Ruby Wax) gives Potter confusing directions to the demolition office in response to his rude behavior but gives Pete and Jeff a quicker way. When he finally reaches the door and gets rid of Pete and Jeff, he finds himself trapped inside the storeroom where the Clocks tie his hands to his face with black Sellotape. In his rage, Potter breaks free and attempts to vacuum the Clocks when an army of Borrowers turn up to save them. The Borrowers tie Potter up with wire and a ceiling fan and it is revealed that Spiller had survived the machine at the Dairy (Much to Arrietty's delight) and summoned the every Borrower to aid the Clocks. Pod delivers a speech to Potter on the Borrowers' behalf. All the Borrowers then disappear as soon as they hear the door open. Pete and Jeff enter with Officer Steady. Pete recovers the will from Potter and shows it to Steady, proving Potter's deceit and his plan to cheat the Lenders out of their house. Potter tries to explain his story, but Steady, unconvinced, arrests him for fraud and theft but Potter has gone mad with shock over the army of Borrowers and doesn't care.
Having obtained the will, the Lenders move back into their house and Pete becomes friends with the Clocks and their old friends and regularly gives them food while keeping their existence a secret. Arrietty still wants to see new things so Spiller takes her for a quick trip on the roller-skate through the empty water pipe and plan to get back keeping the trip a secret.
- John Goodman as Ocious P. Potter
- Bradley Pierce as Pete Lender
- Jim Broadbent as Pod Clock
- Celia Imrie as Homily Clock
- Flora Newbigin as Arrietty Clock
- Tom Felton as Peagreen Clock
- Mark Williams as Exterminator Jeff
- Raymond Pickard as Spud Spiller
- Hugh Laurie as Officer Oliver Steady
- Ruby Wax as Town Hall Clerk
- Aden Gillett as Joe Lender
- Doon Mackichan as Victoria Lender
- Bob Goody as Minty Branch
The film received generally positive reviews upon its release. Rotten Tomatoes gave 73% of positive reviews. The Guardian has described the film as "A spirited screen version of the Mary Norton stories about the tiny folk who live under the floorboards, and off human scraps. Jim Broadbent and Celia Imrie are a joy as the parents of little Arrietty..."  Roger Ebert in his review described the film, in the wake of numerous television adaptations, as a "big-screen, big-budget version with special effects so amusing it's like Toy Story has come to life...the charm comes in the way The Borrowers makes its world look like a timeless story book. If the action and the physical humour are designed to appeal to kids, the look of the film will impress adults who know what to look for."