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Luc Besson began his career as a typical French director, exploring his private obsessions. Gradually, however, he remade himself as a one-man Gallic counterpoint to Hollywood. He became a producer as well as a director, developing action movies that crossbred French, British, and Hong Kong variations on the genre. Now he’s moved on to international cinema’s latest cash cow—animation—directing a movie based on his own children’s book. “His own” is a slippery concept for Besson, though. The filmmaker deals mostly in pastiche, with the result that Arthur and the Invisibles seems even more cynically acquisitive of other people’s ideas than the typical Hollywood rip job. The story opens in a live-action rendition of what appears to be Depression-era Kansas, although the film identifies it as 1960 Connecticut. Our hero is 10-year-old Arthur (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s Freddie Highmore) who lives in a farmhouse with his grandmother (Mia Farrow) and her stories of his long-lost adventuring grandfather. With eviction looming, Arthur borrows a trick from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and ventures into the microcosmic land of the Minimoys, Smurf-like ’toons who live in the backyard. The now-animated Arthur is looking for Grandpa’s treasure, a bunch of rubies given him by an African tribe that could have walked out of a ’40s Tarzan movie. The jewels are held by the evil Maltazard (David Bowie), so Arthur pulls an Arthurian sword from a stone and sets off on a Grail-like quest. Joining him are new pal Betameche (Jimmy Fallon) and his sexed-up older sister Selenia (Madonna), whose undulating curves are among the few indications that this is a French movie. (Another is the casual racism of the characterizations of the black characters, who include a hip-hop stoner voiced by Snoop Dogg.) “It’s the little things that make a difference,” proclaims Jewel’s theme song, but in his pursuit of the big payoff, Besson steps all over the small details that could have endowed his cut-and-paste saga with some charm.