Saturday , September 19 2020
Great entertainment, especially for the kids.

DVD Review: The Spiderwick Chronicles

The Spiderwick Chronicles is a film adaptation of Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi’s bestselling series of the same name. The story revolves around twin brothers, Jared and Simon Grace who, along with their sister, Mallory, move into the dilapidated Spiderwick Estate with their mother. No one is happy about the move, but in particular Jared is the most distraught. It doesn’t take long for strange things to begin happening.

Mrs Grace, (Mary-Louise Parker) who is recently separated from her husband, takes her kids from their home in New York and moves to Spiderwick estates, an old house that was owned by her elderly aunt Lucinda (Joan Plowright), and built by her great-great uncle, Arthur Spiderwick. When they are unable to explain the strange things happening in the house, the Grace children begin exploring.

Mallory (Sarah Bolger) finds a dumbwaiter system behind a wall and Jared (Freddie Highmore, who also plays his twin brother Simon) finds a monogrammed key, which leads him to the study of Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn). It is here that they discover Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You.

The Spiderwick Chronicles is a fantasy adventure filled with creatures from an unseen world. The Grace family not only must test themselves when they encounter these sometimes-scary creatures, but they must also overcome family conflicts and preconditioned behavior, as well.

The Spiderwick Chronicles was directed by Mark Waters, and produced by Mark Canton, Larry Franco, Ellen Goldsmith-Vien, and Karey Kirkpatrick. Others in the movie include Nick Nolte, Seth Rogen, Andrew McCarthy, and Martin Short.

Waters was inspired by the books of DiTerlizzi and Black because they took place in modern day America as opposed to some far away land or time. They also had kids that audiences could identify with, ones that struggle with the same problems that many families struggle with today.

In the story, another character is the estate itself. It, like any character, develops throughout the story. It begins as a secluded old mansion, badly in disrepair, and slowly gets a personality of its own. The unique characters of the unseen world also take on a life of their own. Some are sweet, and others are mean and self-serving.

The effects were created by two visual effects groups, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) (Star Wars series, Harry Potter, Back to the Future) and Tippett Studio (RoboCop, Jurassic Park, Starship Troopers). Tippett handled the army of goblins and ILM produced the characters of Thimbletack, Mulgarath, the sprites, and sylphs. There were over 600 visual effects shots.

The Spiderwick Chronicles really works as a wonderful kids’ movie. You have the house shrouded in mystery, three kids who have dynamically different personalities, fanciful creatures, and a mystery that is impossible to grasp until they are so far in that there is no choice but to survive or die.

The Spiderwick Chronicles has non-stop action throughout the movie and has some serious “made you jump” spots, especially for the kids. For the adults, it really is not that bad, although there are some situations that are less believable. While I have not read the books, I suspect there is a lot left out based on time constraints. There is a boatload of extras (see below), which I would expect for a two-disk DVD of this quality.

Some of the things I really liked about The Spiderwick Chronicles is, first and foremost, the acting. All four of the main characters, and Arthur and Lucy Spiderwick’s portrayals, are first rate. Next were the effects and pacing. There was not a dull moment to be had and it kept the kids on the edge of their seats. There might be some spots too intense for children under eight-years-old, so keep that in mind.

Finally, I liked the fact that this was not played too safe. There was a bit of fear factor and I like the “sometimes bad things happen” element that was more evident in children’s movies of old, like Bambi or Wizard of Oz. Overall, I highly recommend this movie.

For the kids

For the adults

Extra Features:
“Spiderwick: It’s All True!”, with director Mark Waters proclaiming everything in the film is true.

It’s a Spiderwick World featurette discusses the origin of the story.

You can turn on Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to learn more about the creatures featured in the film while you’re watching the movie.

“Meet the Clan” is about casting an English boy and an Irish girl in the lead roles.

“Making Spiderwick” looks at the production design

“Magic of Spiderwick” is a look at the visual effects.

“A Final Word of Advice” has director Mark Waters continuing to try to assure the audience the Spiderwick world is based in fact.

There are four deleted scenes.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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