The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)
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 creatures.
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I read all the books when I was 12 and I loved them and really looked forward to watching a movie. Back then, I was disappointed because it didn't stick to the plot of the books, but when I got a little older, I reread the series (Lucinda's Secret, that used to be my least favorite book and now is my favorite) and rewatched the movie and I liked it much more. The books are really short so they put it all in one movie and most of the plot happens in one day, while in the books it's about a month. Goblins look a little bit fake at times, but CGI is still pretty good. Acting is really good, and Freddie Highmore is a really talented young actor and he also plays two roles in this movie, but he does it so well, it actually seems like two actors. His characters are twins, but their personalities are different and Highmore absolutely nails it! As an adaptation, it feels really rushed and a lot of things were changed. The Field Guide was probably the most faithful part and still didn't have a half of that book's plot. There was the beginning of The Seeing Stone, first half of Lucinda's Secret, none of The Iron Tree, and the ending of Mulgarath's Wrath and the rest is made up and most if it is squeezed in one day so it feels kinda rushed. This is a movie for kids, but still pretty serious and dramatic in some parts because it has that subplot about divorcing and how that affects the children and that part was very well done. If they gave this movie more space to breathe, it would be awesome, but this way it's still really good.
The Spiderwick Chronicles is a fine, family film in the tradition of Harry Potter and The Golden Compass, and like those other franchises, it is based on a beloved series of children's books. Although I would strongly argue that Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy (from which The Golden Compass comes) goes far beyond simple "good vs. evil" children's fare; that is an argument best suited for another time and place The basic plot line of The Spiderwick Chronicles goes like this: upon moving into the dilapidated Spiderwick Estate with their mother, Helen (the MILF-tastic Mary-Louise Parker), the Grace children — twin brothers Jared and Simon (both played with aplomb by Freddie Highmore) and their sister Mallory (Sarah Bolger) — find themselves pulled into an alternate world full of fantastical creatures.Unable to explain the mysterious occurrences that seem to be happening on a daily basis, the family finds a scapegoat in the unruly Jared. When he, Simon, and Mallory stumble upon Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide and begin to look into what's really going on, they uncover the incredible truth of the Spiderwick Estate and of the creatures that populate it.In and of itself, the movie is well done, but nothing spectacular, and is carried by the charisma of its two young stars (Highmore and Bolger). There is a "broken family" sub-plot that just weighs the film down and feels tacked on. In my opinion, those scenes could've easily been edited out and this would've streamlined the fantasy elements of the film, which are, undoubtedly, its best parts.The DVD I reviewed was of the Blu-ray variety and does offer a superior quality of picture and sound. The digital creature effects seem to jump off the HDTV screen, and the colors, especially in the faerie realm, are truly vibrant and crisp on my monitor set at 1080p. The 5.1 Dolby True HD sound mix is alternately thunderous and airy in the appropriate places, but does seem a bit too center-channel concentrated for my liking. If I'm in an expansive fantasy realm, I want to feel it. Unfortunately, this disc didn't quite get me to that level of aural immersion.The special features found on this disc consist mostly of making of and back-slapping featurettes, which are nicely presented in HD. The best special feature found here is the interactive, enhanced Blu-ray version of the Spiderwick Field Guide that you can access at various points throughout the film when certain creatures pop up or events unfold. This is cool and all but can be distracting on your initial viewing of the film, so you may want to turn this feature on only during subsequent viewings of the movie.At the end of the day, The Spiderwick Chronicles is a solid, if unspectacular, entry into your DVD/Blu-ray collection, especially if you have younger children at home. If you don't have kids, I would suggest a rental over an outright purchase, as it isn't one of those "showcase" DVDs that will dazzle your friends and neighbors.
First, I'm surprised that most negative reviews (<5 rating) are only from viewers that know the books (or at least one), cause the movie is not good for itself. IMHO one of the biggest mistakes are the characters of the kids. I don't know the book but I can't imagine the children were introduced like this in the original in terms of character development. Whiny, hateful, aggressive, etc... and NO, the breakup of their parents doesn't explain it at all. At least not at this intensity.After the first half-hour I was really like "meeeh, don't care what happens with them". Another thing that added to that was the bad acting (but the adults were not better at all). Maybe that's a subjective matter, but I know a lot of movies with child actors and even Freddie Highmore, had seen him playing better in other movies so maybe the reason is to find in the script or directing. Then the seemingly repetitive fighting, where they could had better invest some time in developing the characters, story or the world about the spiderwicks (I read in the commentaries there are five books, so source material shouldn't have been the problem). All in all, the beginning (about the book = 1P) and a few good new ideas here and there (another point) are the only reasons for me to give it 3/10 in the end.
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.