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The Spiderwick Chronicles (Widescreen Edition)

Kids & Family movie directed by Mark Waters

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Joan Plowright isn't dead, but the movie is

  • Jul 19, 2008
Pros: Decent action at times

Cons: Story, pacing, acting, and general sloppiness

The Bottom Line: A kid 8 to 11 might enjoy it, but anyone older would likely turn it off or fall asleep.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

I look to young adult films the same way I look to young adult novels: when do the stories begin to move from the good versus evil to something where good and bad start to get a bit fuzzy around the edges? The Spiderwick Chronicles stays firmly on the binary side with just one tiny variation I leave the viewer to determine if they desire.

The Graces show up, in the middle of the night, at their new home—one they have essentially inherited. Simon Grace is a nerd, his twin Jared is the rebel as if he were the true second child (both are played by Freddie Highmore); rounding out the family are the swashbuckling older sister Mallory (Sara Bolger) and the recently separated mother, Helen (Mary-Louise Parker).

This is a movie containing fanciful characters of both stripes, so it is easy to imagine that the house, or things in it, would want the family to leave. The rebel, Jared, goes on a search once a dumbwaiter is found. In the attic, he finds a book that has a warning that no one should open it, let alone read it. Jared will have none of the warning and once the book is opened, a whole host of creatures, apparently kept in stasis now come to life.

An ogre wants his hands on the book so he can unlock the secrets and destroy the world (fairy world first, then the real one). So the three Grace children must use their wits and the help of a few magical creatures to find the only way to destroy the book.

Either the film was too long or not long enough. The characters were never fleshed out (Jared and Simon are in nearly every scene of the film, yet neither boy is any more dimensional than their great aunt who has just a couple of scenes). I can’t say the acting was bad, just that the characters were not that great to begin with and it seems the cast didn’t give it any extra umph. Perhaps a reason for this is that every scene that had both Simon and Jared in it had to be shot twice would make me want to hurl having to repeat myself the same way for each scene like that.

The special effects were decent. I didn’t notice any inconsistency between the goblins and the few characters on the good side. For the lighter creatures on the good side of things, it wasn’t all that different from Fantasia except for the extra dimensions CGI allows for.

Ultimately the story is simply too weak to withstand analysis. I have no problems with suspending disbelief when it comes to the magical, but when there is so much “reality” mixed in and the reality is, well, unrealistic then the film becomes more of a slog than it should be. For instance, there is a massive amount of honey in a house abandoned for nearly 80 years. They all come in the little bear shaped bottles and the honey is still fresh, not separated into sugar and wax as would happen over a very short amount of time. Plastic didn’t exist 80 years ago, so the atavistic bears can’t exist either. This isn’t a trifle because of the role that honey plays.

So, at best, Spiderwick is a kids movie for someone between eight and eleven. Parents and other adults can let their minds wander and create different tales from the snippets of any reliable imagination in what is finally just a sloppy film.


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More The Spiderwick Chronicles reviews
review by . November 15, 2008
Short Attention Span Summary (SASS)     1. Helen Grace moves into the Spiderwick Estate with her three kids, Mallory, Simon and Jared. Simon and Jared are twins (played by the impressive Freddie Highmore)   2. It doesn't take the kids long to find a secret room, a locked chest and a book marked "Do NOT read"   3. You can guess what happens next   4. Up pops a tiny Brownie named Thimbletack (Martin Short) who changes into a Boggart when riled up. …
review by . September 28, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Another fantasy movie starring white kids; seems that Hollywood is running out of ideas. Luckily this movie makes up with great execution and original special effects. I have never read the book that inspired this movie, but it must be good.    The storyline is simple enough, a divorced mother takes her twin sons and daughter to a house in the countryside that was owned by her aunt. There, the children discover a world of creatures of various shades of friendliness. Some of these …
review by . September 21, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
I have to say that I was generally surprised by this film as, although I'm not much of a Freddie Highmore fan I've seen most of and liked most of his movies. Spiderwick Chronicles I expected to be bad but I was again surprised and shouted "DAMN IT!" as I liked another one of his films. I so want to hate Highmores films but again and again he constantly gives us something great. I think it's time I get over my hate filled feelings and just say, "OK he's awesome, I admit it." Even doing an American …
review by . June 28, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
A terrific tale for children, `The Spiderwick Chronicles' shows the plight of a NYC family moving into an old, decrepit house in the country while the children discover an ancient book that brings faeries, ogres, and sprites to life. Led by chief, Mulgarith (Nick Nolte), the ogres try to steal the chronicles from Simon, Jared, (both played by Freddie Highmore) and Mallory (Sarah Bolger) while Hogsqueal (Seth Rogen), a hideous changing forms leader, tries to destroy the children. Enchanting, transporting, …
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Paul Savage ()
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About this movie


A very good adaptation of the popular series of books by Tony DiTerllizi and Holly Black,The Spiderwick Chroniclesis one of the few family films in recent years to seamlessly integrate magical elements with a potent drama that will strike a chord with many kids. An exceptionally talented Freddie Highmore (August Rush) plays twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace, caught up in a sad shock from their parents' divorce and coping with a decision by their mother (Mary-Louise Parker) to uproot the boys and their sister, Mallory (Sarah Bolger), from New York City to a small town. There, the broken family moves into a spooky old mansion passed on to them by the kids' great-aunt, Lucinda (Joan Plowright), who is spending her twilight years in managed care and whose scientist father, Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn), disappeared some 80 years ago. Jared, angry, defiant, and determined to live with the father who seems to have abandoned him, investigates strange happenings and discovers Arthur's secret notations on fairies, ogres, and other mythical creatures that live both in and outside the house. Having no idea where his curiosity is leading, Jared soon finds that he and his family are under siege from goblins and a powerful ogre (Nick Nolte) who wants Arthur's notebook. Suddenly, the boy who is a lightning rod for a troubled family becomes a resourceful warrior intent on saving his loved ones from powerful forces.The Spiderwick Chroniclesbenefits enormously from a ...
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Director: Mark Waters
DVD Release Date: June 24, 2008
Runtime: 96 minutes
Studio: Paramount
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