The Spiderwick Chronicles

2008-06-20 15:40
What it's about:

About 80 years after his disappearance, the house of eccentric professor Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn) is inhabited by distant family. Twins Simon and Jared (both played by Freddy Highmore) and Mallory (Sarah Bolger) soon discover a fantastic world of magical creatures in the woods surrounding the house. Not all of them are friendly though, and they must fight for their lives to stop evil forces seizing their great uncle's secrets.

What we thought of it:

The Spiderwick Chronicles is apparently based on a much loved children's fantasy book, but it plays out like any run of the mill "magical" movie aimed at kids – most notably Arthur and the Invisibles, which also featured Freddy Highmore in the lead role. Luckily it's way better than Arthur and manages to create a charming world for youngsters to lose themselves in.

The strength of the movie is its setting and the multitude of creatures that inhabit the magical woods around the old house. With creature design straight out of Alan Lee's classic "Faeries" book, The Spiderwick Chronicles really brings the magic to life. Unfortunately it puts action above storyline and much of the atmosphere is lost in all the frantic chases and wrestling with goblins.

Freddy Highmore does a decent job playing twins and it's easy to think of Simon and Jared as separate people despite the lack of character development. Sarah Bolger also shines as their sister Mallory and it's their performances that turn Spiderwick into more than just an empty display of CGI effects.

This is a movie your kids should really enjoy if they're into their fantasy and Harry Potter, even with the lack of originality. It's not perfect by any means and the more cynical among us will find the sugary ending enraging, but it will fill the gap while we wait for the next installments of Narnia and Harry Potter.

- Ivan Sadler
Moving into an old family mansion in a forest, three children discover a magical and dangerous world of fairies and goblins.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.