Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Spiderwick Chronicles

directed by Mark Waters

Spiderwick Chronicles poster  
Arthur Spiderwick is no ordinary naturalist. He has made it his life's work to compile a guide to the supernatural creatures we can't usually see. Eighty years on, some of his descendants are moving in to his Victorian mansion. The three Grace children and their mother have moved out of New York because of the cost, but their father is absent. Emotions are running high.

Very soon it's obvious that they're not alone in the spooky old house they've moved into. Their insane great aunt Lucinda kept salt on all the windowsills, and there are strange noises in the walls. Jared Grace (Freddie Highmore) finds a hidden room which contains Arthur Spiderwick's book, which he reads in spite of a prominent warning tied to it.

Jared is the first to believe in the existence of the house brownie, Thimbletack (voiced by Martin Short), although no-one else believes him at first. But the ogre Mulgarath (Nick Nolte) wants the book, and he's prepared to go to any lengths to get it. Mulgarath is the leader of the goblins. He plans to use the book to kill off all of the other species of fantastic creatures, not to mention all of the Grace family for good measure.

They need the help of the fairies and various good magical creatures to defeat the goblins, so this movie is loaded with cute, quirky and incredible characters such as the gross Hogsqueal, Thimbletack who talks in rhyme, and a handy pet griffin. Amongst the fantasy the Grace children are dealing with the rather more prosaic issue of their parents' separation. The evasiveness of Jared's father is something of a cliché. However, although some of the creatures bear a passing resemblance to some of those from Harry Potter and Bridge To Terabithia, the story itself, based on the books of Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, is at least not hackneyed.

Freddie Highmore does a good job of playing both of the twin Grace brothers, Simon and Jared, who may be identical in looks but whose personalities could not be more different. The relationships between the children are one of the few things that give this movie some much-needed grounding in reality.

The Spiderwick Chronicles is a solid children's film that deals with themes of loss, self-control and the high price of knowledge. It's cute and funny in places, and parts of the ending are extremely saccharine. This is a fairly short film that's not too complex, and it's a little over-reliant on attention-grabbing special effects. This light and slightly melodramatic film will appeal to people who enjoy enchanting movies such as Stardust, but it's sweet rather than serious or deep.

Film Details

Year: 2008

Categories: Films

  Kids     Fantasy

Classification: PG

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3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson