Entries Comments

Movie Review: The Spiderwick Chronicles

The Spiderwick Chronicles
Directed by Mark Waters
Written by Karey Kirkpatrick, David Berenbaum, and John Sayles from the novels by Tony DeTerlizzi and Holly Black
Paramount, 2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles immediately had a problem even before it was released.  There has been so many child fantasy movies released in the past few years, they’re beginning to overlap each other.  Luckily, this movie shines a bit more than your average run-of-the-mill kid flick, but its story is all too familiar.

Jared Grace (Freddie Highmore) is the troubled youth hating his mom (the fetching Mary-Louise Parker) for moving away from home and into a creepy house that normal people don’t buy.  Jared is the antithesis of his twin Simon, who’s an annoying do-gooder, and his older sister Mallory (Sarah Bolger), who’s an annoying fencing champ who disbelieves everything Jared ever says.

Jared starts exploring the house and finds a book that he’s not supposed to find and which has a note attached that warns not to open it.  He opens it, and then he starts seeing strange things.  Like Thimbletack (Martin Short), a creature who loves honey and turns into a nasty green creature when he gets angry, only to be calmed down by the soothing taste of honey.  Thimbletack is sworn to protect the book from an outside barrier of rocks that form a circle around the house, where goblins roam and are led by Mulgarath (Nick Nolte), who wants the book for the secrets it contains about all the magical creatures, so that he may dominate them one day.

Yes, Jared has an awful time getting his family to believe him, even though he could easily prove it.  But when Simon gets taken out into the forest by creatures he can’t see, he naturally starts believing.  With help from Hogsqueal (Seth Rogen), all the kids start being able to see the goblins and then plot to find people who can help them, like their great aunt Lucinda (Joan Plowright), whose father Arthur Spiderwick (David Straithairn) wrote the book.

The special effects are extremely good.  One of the few times outside of Gollum that digital creatures have looked lifelike, they transcend your usual slumming kiddie fare.  I just had a hard time caring too much, since the movie takes a lot of time explaining rules and having Jared act the fool trying to make everyone believe him.  Plus, that tired old Evil Being Wants Something angle sort of takes away from what could have just been a whimsical adventure a la The Neverending Story.

But you can’t go wrong, ultimately, with this one if you need to take the kids out for awhile.  You won’t bang your head against the wall like you probably did with The Seeker.

Write a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.