Big names voicing characters fail to give weight to movie

There must have been some charm to the French blend of animation and live action titled “Arthur et les Minimoys,” a fantasy concocted by the director of “The Fifth Element.”

Re-cut into “Arthur and the Invisibles,” with English speakers doing the cartoon voices, the charm is scrubbed right off Luc Besson’s first children’s film.

There’s a reason American animated filmmakers don’t use the great Robert De Niro, Jason Bateman and Madonna to voice their cartoons. The big names add nothing to this frustrating goulash of fairy tales and fantasy film ingredients.

It’s derivative, sure, and suffers because it comes along after “The Ant Bully,” another film that takes a kid into the world of teeny creatures and insects. At least the 3-D animation here is striking.

The story, near as I can follow it, has to do with a child who lives in that part of rural, 1960s Connecticut that looks like the South of France. Arthur (Freddie Highmore) ponders the fate of his long-lost grandfather, when he’s not missing his show-people parents. When grandma (Mia Farrow) faces foreclosure, Arthur resolves to track down grandpa’s treasure, and grandpa, by figuring out the clues he left behind.

And that leads him into an underground world of itsy bitsy teeny weeny animated friends and meanies. Madonna voices the friend, a princess whom Arthur, in a sexist French touch, must help ascend to the throne (Dad is De Niro, boring). David Bowie is the villain.

Magical talismans (a sword in the stone, etc.) must be seized, henchmen foiled, a “river” (stream) traversed and signals sent to the humans back on the surface that yes, we will find the ruby treasure in time to save the farm.

The wild-haired elves (Minimoys) may be sure-fire toy-store hits. But with all the convoluted action and chatter about this plot device or that magical agent, that’s really all small children are going to get from this “Onee, I Shrunk Ze Keeds.”