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Regardless of how faithful The Spiderwick Chronicles movie is to the
original stories by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, the film is
tremendously entertaining and thankfully resolute. Unlike the recent
flock of fantasy epics including The Golden Compass and The Seeker,
which conclude feeling wholly unsatisfactory due to an abrupt
resolution that suggests further films in the series, The Spiderwick
Chronicles easily stands alone as a complete story. With sensationally
mirthful creature designs and likable human characters, topped with
state-of-the-art special effects, The Spiderwick Chronicles is another
big win for Paramount and a high bar for family films of 2008.
The moment the Grace family moves into the dilapidated Spiderwick Estate, strange things begin to happen. Jared (Freddie Highmore) is a curious, adventurous boy who quickly seeks out the hidden cob-web-covered remains of great great uncle Arthur Spiderwick's laboratory. He unleashes a mysterious force when he locates a field guide full of the secrets of the magical creatures that inhabit the forest surrounding the mansion. His twin brother Simon is calm and reserved and very much the intellectual one, but is rapidly drawn into the fantastical world of faeries and goblins. Older sister Mallory and their mom are harder to convince, but after the almighty and ruthless ogre leader Mulgarath (Nick Nolte) begins to attack the home, everyone must band together to combat the hordes of goblins and ensorcelled creatures that lurk outside.
The Spiderwick Chronicles is, on the surface, an alluringly delightful fantasy that blends the very best of character designs, both human and CG, into a story that effortlessly engrosses without stumbling out of the realm of suspended disbelief. Everything within the story makes sense as it unfolds, and we don't question why certain things are feasible because as the world of goblins and boggers is defined, we have no reason not to become completely immersed in the fantasy. Director Mark Waters doesn't rush the process of illustrating the multitude of magic and myths, and doesn't overload us with jargon that we couldn't possibly comprehend. The pacing is fantastic for a family film, and doesn't fall into the three hour trap that The Lord of the Rings sets.
The children have more appeal and charismatic personalities than those of the Narnia kids, and the creatures are more lovable and waggish than those in Harry Potter. Each computer animated monstrosity and cuddly ally beautifully blend into the forested environment, and never reach a level of utter annoyance. The designs themselves are ingenious, with a mix of gelatinous abominations like Redcap, the angry henchman goblin, a furry old hamster-like man (Thimbletack, voiced by Martin Short) who speaks in rhyme, and a mighty griffin that soars above the picturesque clouds. Eloquently wispy faeries and an enormous horned ogre are also substantial parts of the Spiderwick mythology, and many other exciting creatures frequent this action-filled fairyland.
The Spiderwick Chronicles undeniably makes fantasy and magic fun. While a few scenes of unnecessary predicaments involving the children's divorced parents could have been cut, the film manages not to be overly preachy, even with its many positive messages and abounding morals. With pleasing characters, family-friendly magical adventure and a mind-bogglingly fantastical world of faeries, goblins and ogres, The Spiderwick Chronicles is extraordinarily entertaining fantasy fun.
- The Massie Twins
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I work at IMAX theaters, and we showed an advanced staff screening tonight. Having been surrounded by posters and trailers for Spiderwick Chronicles for months, I was already sick of the film before I even saw it. But I went into it with an open mind, and found myself pleasantly surprised. The plot centers around a broken family that moves into an old house that has been in the family for years, in hopes of "starting over". Freddie Highmore plays two roles, twin brothers Jarod and Simon, and does an impressive job at keeping the two personalities distinct and different. Jarod, the angsty protagonist of the film, discovers a book (titled, the Spiderwick Chronicles) written by his late great uncle depicting in explicit detail the creatures of a "hidden world" all around us. Jarod reads the book, and in the process awakens an evil Ogre and a horde of goblins hell bent on obtaining the knowledge hidden within the book to destroy mankind, and creature-kind as well. The pacing is decent, and the acting works well within the context of the film. Oddly, it's the adult actors that deliver the lamest lines, as they seem profoundly out of place in this otherwise fantasy and child actor filled film. The CGI effects were well implemented too, with various characters and creatures popping up here and there to provide comedic relief, and often, pivitol plot development. The various supporting characters do a great job of keeping things moving, most notable being Jarod and Simons sister, Mallory, played by Sarah Bolger, who delivers a great performance. Having never read the books, I can't make any comparisons, but what I saw in the film I liked quite a bit. Not the most complex of movies, and there are some glaring plot holes here and there, but overall, it holds up pretty well, albeit some wonky script writing here and there.
The Spiderwick Chronicles is based upon the books of the same name by Tony DeTerlizzi and Holly Black. The film centers around a mother and her three children who move into a mysterious and creepy new house pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The one son Jared who is the main character in the film, finds a book written by the previous owner of the house and Jared soon discovers that this is a magical yet very dangerous book that a lot of goblins and little creatures are after, but with the help of his twin brother, his older sister and some friendly creatures he gets the book to safety and also protects himself and his family from the evil monsters that want the book to do harm. Ever since The Lord Of The Rings and Harry Potter films have done so well, filmmakers are taking other fantasy books and turning them into feature films as well. The majority of them that have been released over the past few years I have not seen because for one thing they did not look appealing to me at all and also because of bad word of mouth and reviews. I wasn't sure what I would think of The Spiderwick Chronicles, but to my surprise I thought it was pretty good. The film is aimed at a family audience even though some young children might be afraid of some scenes, but this is a film that I think kids will absolutely love and there is enough here for the grownups as well. The story sounds simple enough, but it is enhanced by a lot of creative creatures and imaginative things going on. The young cast each did their own and carried the film and even though I don't usually like computer generated effects in films, I didn't feel it was overdone here just for the sake of showing what today's new wonderful technology can do and I really appreciated that the film didn't go overboard with that. The running time moves along fairly briskly and the film is involving and interesting from the start and keeps it's energy and charm throughout the running time. There were a few repeated story patterns and clichés in the script, but there were also a lot of surprises and new takes on things, so that can be forgiven. When looking at a film like this at a child you would like the magic, imagination and the story that is woven in front of you with interesting characters, environments and a grand sense of storytelling that can make the make believe into a fun and entertaining film. This is all captured very well here and works as a fairy tale for kids 8 to whatever age. A creative enough story helped by good film-making and an eye for what kids and adults love about these movies make this film a generally good and above average family fantasy film of the past few years.
This is being compared to Harry Potter? That is completely ridiculous. Some idiotic critics are saying "This movie isn't like Harry Potter, therefore, it's terrible" This movie is an amazing example of a fantasy movie, and one that doesn't cut much out, unlike Harry Potter. This movie has great acting, especially by the dual-part playing Freddie Highmore, who loses his British accent quite convincingly. Also, Sarah Bolger and Mary-Louise Parker do superb jobs with their acting considering it's mostly a four-person cast. (Excluding voice overs) The special effects alone are amazing. If you don't like this movie, you have to admit, the special effects were amazing. If there were a sequel, I would most definitely see it as long as it has the same actors, special effects team, and director.
I truly wasn't expecting much from this movie goon in but it was the only family movie available to watch with my 5 and 3 year old. I figured that because it wasn't a cartoon I'd have to deal with squirming bottoms and talking. But to my amazement the movie was not only entertaining to both of my boys (NO SQUIRMING!!!) both my husband and I loved it. My husband wouldn't even get a refill on the popcorn----and believe me that doesn't happen often!!!! I have nothing negative to say about the film. Some might think it's a little too scarry for younger kids but neither one of mine were scarred. A couple of times I had to explain some things to my 5 year old. The head goblin is kind of scarry looking; but not too bad.
Went to a UK preview tonight and this completely took me by surprise. A
brilliant fantasy adventure which retains it's dignity and doesn't sell
out for a cute Disney style box office attack.
The issues in it were quite good and realistic and it wasn't necessarily 'happy ever after' in the end. The scripting and the style of the piece reminded me of 'The Princess Bride'- although this is more of an action adventure than a comedy.
Well worth seeing, and there doesn't seem to have been much 'hollywood tailoring' such as there was with the Golden compass and Narnia...
As to the monsters / fairies- they were very well done indeed, quite believable considering they were computer generated.
Well worth seeing, but I have the feeling it won't get as much publicity as the usual run of the mill children's movie...
Why do I keep saying children's movie when I am 34?
Although The Spiderwick Chronicles did fall short in comparison to
other films in the same genre, it did offer some fun entertainment for
the entire family.
Being a fan of most fantasy novels and films, I had the wonderful opportunity to read through the entire series last year and was actually looking forward to its adaptation on the big screen.
What surprised me the most was actually the length of the film. It was fairly short (90 minutes) and I felt that the producers made a huge mistake by attempting to cram all five books into one film instead of dividing them into separate features. I had recognized a few of the scenes from the books, but overall it seemed very rushed and excluded many of the series most exciting moments. Any fan of the books would probably be disappointed in the way the series was handled and executed.
As for the rest of film, I thought it was well done. The CGI continues to be to focal point in most of these types of family films and the producers spent a great time with its detail and design. The fairies looked neat, the goblins were frightening, and the big bad ogre looked well big and bad.
Overall, I would say this film would make for a great matinée on a Sunday with the kids. There are several moments that may scare children under the age of five, but otherwise it should appeal to children of all ages.
Don't listen to all those 'know it alls' who say the book is better then the movie, so therefore, this movie isn't any good. This was a GREAT movie! Obviously you can't fit a whole book into a kid length movie - so they do the best they can and this was WILDLY successful! It was a fun, suspenseful movie that engages you from the beginning. I went with my 9 year old daughter and she LOVED IT! I haven't seen such a good children's movie in a long, long time! It's a MUST SEE! If your child is easily scared then this may not be the movie for them. While I don't view it as a scary movie - the goblins and action might be startling for sensitive kids.
Upon moving into the run-down Spiderwick Estate with their mother, twin
brothers Jared and Simon Grace, along with their sister Mallory, find
themselves pulled into an alternate world full of faeries and other
I've made up a theory: People who have read books that are turned into movies will be more harsh to judge the films unlike people who see movies without reading the book. I think this theory is right. I was disappointed by Harry Potter 5 at first, but watching it now for a year later and nearly forgetting about the book, I found it the best in the series.
The same might as well go with this film. I was disappointed. If you don't know, this film is based on 5 books. However, the movie ignores the 4th book, which is probably because of budget issues and/or limited running time. Still, I can't help but complain. There could've been more creative production designs to see, more action, and more magical creatures.
Apart from that, I felt that the film was well put together, especially the fact that they skipped a lot in the books. The special effects are very good, as well as the action scenes. I also may feel this film pushed the PG rating. It certainly is not as intense as Harry Potter 3 but there might be about 2 to 3 scenes that could make this film a PG-13 rating.
The performances here are decent, although not captivating. The film may be a bit fast paced, if you asked me. Overall, this is a decent adaption to another fantasy book. If you have read the books, you might be disappointed. If you have not, enjoy it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A movie that will definitely plunge the audience young and old - into
plenty of film-watching fun with its strange and fantastical mysteries,
challenges, unpredictable chills and thrills. Examine the Spiderwick
Estate with its crumbling mansion that the three Grace children and
their mother must now consider as 'home'. Yep, a mansion that seems
more like a haunted house whispering to be explored, and one where
invisible eyes seems to watch or stalk at every corner. Yet, there's
more these family members must need to confront than just a spooky
home. The film's introduction to David Stratham's Arthur does give
subtle hints of the horrifying events to come, but only its ending will
eventually expose the dark secrets, not only of their family heritage,
but of the family's burden. Yep this film does have abundance of twists
and turns to keep the audience emotionally glued to the screen.
Watching Freddie Highmore slip into the roles of the twins, Jared and Simon, is simply astounding. The film does focus on Jared's rebelliously thoughtless and unpredictable character yep, his uncontrollable fits and tempers, his raging and bold independence, and his unwillingness to cooperate nature, so marvelously molded into the story as in Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black's book series, offering credible connection to the story's characters and eventful occurrences. I had expected the supporting actors to play fiddle to to the prominence of the main character, yet here, it's Highmore's Jared who seems to hold the support for the need and purpose of the rest of the characters. The talented young actor exhibits that fabulously well. Just observe how his despair gets from bad to worse to provoke the other characters' reactions and to win over the audience's compassion in seeing him as the victim of injustice! Yep, Highmore does lash out his two roles with perfect treatment to reveal the differences in traits and personalities. Well done, Highmore! This movie does give a good summary of the book series without going chronically to a tee, nor does it exactly flush out everything that follows in the series. Yet, the main substances are present, cleverly crafted to keep everything dancing and integrated in spectacularly satisfying momentum and perspective for the film version. Director Mark Waters has successfully flashed out even the boggarts' emotional traits and temperaments that are common to Simon's very much in line with the book series. Book fans of the Spiderwick Chronicles will especially be delighted to see Arthur Rackham's book illustrations of Thimbletack, the faerie creatures, Mulgarath the ogre and his ferociously evil goblins, and even the griffin and Hogsqueal, come alive on the screen. The voices of all the characters are well articulated, succeeding in generating audience appeal and interactions throughout, and the scenes are at well-defined pacing to keep the audience's adrenalin flowing. Watch out for the very brief live-cameo take of Nick Nolte who provides the voice of Mulgarath. A unique list of intriguing characters presented by a well selected team of performers! A great, fun and excitement-filled family film, but there exists some really scary and violent visual moments. Parents should take heed when making decisions to bring kids under 8 to see it. It did trigger off some of those memorable highlights of films, like Jumanji, the Harry Potter and Narnia film series without being condescending in its approach. I was fully swept into it and, oh yes, I love it!
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