Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles

I Am LegendAdapted from the Spiderwick series of books by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, The Spiderwick Chronicles is essentially a children's movie. Still it had monsters and magic in it so that was enough to woo us big kids in to see it. Here's a summary of the plot…
When recently divorced Helen Grace (Mary-Louise Parker) and family move into the old Spiderwick house, left to her by their elderly aunt Lucinda (Joan Plowright), it's more a matter of need than design. The place is old, creaky and just a little bit spooky and while the kids are exploring, Mallory Grace (Sarah Bolger) discovers a hidden dumb waiter behind a wall. In the waiter, they discover a horde of stuff, some of which they'd been blaming each other for taking, and among the loot, Jared Grace (Freddie Highmore) finds an old monogrammed key.

Not satisfied with their finds, Jared ventures up the dumb waiter and discovers the study of his great-uncle, Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn). In the study, Jared uses the key he found earlier to open a chest in which he finds Spiderwick's Field Guide, which has a note attached with a warning not to read the book. However, being of an inquisitive nature, Jared opens the book and starts a chain of events that puts the whole world of faerie at risk of destruction, not to mention endangering the lives of himself and his family.

We were both pleasantly surprised by this film. I've never read any of the books so can't compare the storyline here with any of them but we decided to go and see it after watching the trailer. Sometimes a bad idea I know but in this case it proved a good choice. The story is told from the point of view of the central character Jared and follows what happens when he and his siblings discover that they live alongside a hidden world of magical creatures, some good and some extremely evil indeed.

Freddie Highmore does an excellent job portraying both the Grace twins, Jared and Simon, and manages to play those completely different characters very well. Mary-Louise Parker does a good job as the displaced mother, trying to rebuild her life and provide for her children after their father has left them. Veteran Joan Plowright makes an appearance as the elederly aunt and proves that she's still got a fair bit of mileage left as an actress while Nick Nolte is reasonably menacing as the Mulgarath the evil, shape-shifting Ogre. On the more amusing front, Martin Short provides the voice talent for Thimbletack the Brownie, probably the most interesting and entertaining of the faerie characters here.

The special effects are very well crafted with the live action and CGI mixing together beautifully. From Thimbletack shifting from Brownie to Boggart when he gets mad or the various forms taken by Mulgarath, it all seems to blend into the sets and action very well. The storyline moves along at a reasonable pace with enough action and interesting moments to keep both kids and adults happy enough, although there are a few scenes that might be a bit frightening for very young children.

Well worth catching on the big screen!

Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Thriller
My Rating: 8/10

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