STARRING: Michael Stahl-David, Odet Jasmin, Mike Vogel, Lizzy Kaplan

2008, 90 Minutes, Directed by:
Matt Reeves

Three children, angry Jared, his studious twin brother Simon (both played by Freddie Highmore), and fencing enthusiast older sister Mallory (Sarah Bolger), move into the creepy run-down Spiderwick Estate which looks a lot like the house in The Addams Family.

Jared is just angry enough to be considered disturbed, or at least in need of anger management counseling, probably an odd character choice for the hero of a family film.

One day Jared discovers hidden in the house a very dangerous book written by his uncle Arthur who vanished sixty years ago titled Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You. Despite a clear warning not to open the book, Jarad chooses to do so. Once opened, the book unleashes a world surrounding the Spiderwick Estate inhabited by goblins, fairies and other fantastic beings . . . many of them unfriendly.

The film is based on the best-selling children’s books written by Holly Black and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi. Written for 8 to 12-year-olds, the book was considered too tame for a modern film. DiTerlizzi’s original drawings were still the inspiration behind the movie though. The premise of Spiderwick is simple, that children can see magic that adults are too quick to dismiss as imaginary.

Spiderwick Chronicles is more Lord of the Rings than Harry Potter. The invisible goblins in the film leave horrific visible bites. Spiderwick is also very scary, almost a horror movie. Well, an old horror movie, before horror become gore-porn. It is more adult than its family audience theme would let on. You wouldn’t want to bring any young children to see it. (Director Waters admitted in an interview that he didn’t show it to his five-year-old daughter.)

Incidentally, the wily, yet helpful, hobgoblin Hogsqueal of The Spiderwick Chronicles is voiced by Seth Rogen. After his dramatic line “Vengeance or death!”, Seth lightly ad-libs, “Preferably vengeance”.

This dark fantasy could have used more humor like that . . .

- Robin Rowe



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