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