The Spiderwick Chronicles
Fantasy films for children are hard to pull off. It’s a difficult balancing
act separating what is fun from what is foolish, what is whimsical from what
The Spiderwick Chronicles
mostly stays on the right
side of this divide.
charming story of a family moving into an old mansion only to find that it
is surrounded by goblins, sprites and fairies, The Spiderwick Chronicles
is based on a series of books which have a huge following. This gives
the movie the feel of the start of a series – a series that may or may not
come after the muted reaction to the film in its theatrical release.
movie stars Mary-Louise Parker as a separated mother who moves her three
children to a family manor which has been given to her by her supposedly
insane great aunt (Joan Plowright). Parker is probably the biggest name in
the starring cast, but she is really a supporting character. Mom disappears
for long chunks of the movie. In fact most of the known actors here get
very limited screen time – including Plowright, David Straithairn, Nick
Nolte and Andrew McCarthy.
leaves the heavy lifting to the children, twin boys (both played by Freddie
Highmore of Finding Neverland) and their older sister (Sarah Bolger)
are left alone to deal with a supernatural infestation.
main character is Jared, the moody twin. Jared is homesick and distraught
over his parents’ separation (though he doesn’t quite understand the cause
of the split.).
Exploring the quirky old manor, he finds an old book called Arthur
Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You in the
attic. Despite a note attached to the book warning not to open it at risk
of your life, Jared ignores the warning and opens
the book, unleashing the powers of evil on his house.
Apparently Spiderwick is their great-great-uncle, a man who has discovered
the magical dimension of gremlins, hobgoblins, sylphs and goblins. He
placed all the info he could in his book – a book that the head of the
goblins (Nick Nolte) would do anything to get his hands (paws?) on, for it
would give him unlimited power.
children have to fight off the fantastical challenge as well as save
themselves, their family, the house and the book.
mostly thrilling, exciting stuff, though more than occasionally it doesn’t
completely make sense. Still, if you buy into the mythology of The
Spiderwick Chronicles it makes for a great ride.
However, fair warning – for a movie which is aimed at children,
several parts that seem a little intense. I know that at first I was
looking forward to showing the movie to my nephew, until an offbeat (and
off-camera) scene where it appears that the goblins had cooked and were
eating the family cat. That would spark a conversation with small children
that I (and most people) have no interest in having. It turns out that the
cat was okay, but later scenes confirmed that The Spiderwick Chronicles
is great fun for older children, but may be a little too scary for
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: June 24, 2008.