Friday, August 5, 2016

Movie Review: "The Spiderwick Chronicles" (2008)

Image Source
Movie"The Spiderwick Chronicles"
Director: Mark Waters
Year: 2008
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

A divorced woman named Helen (Mary-Louise Parker) and her three kids Mallory (Sarah Bolger), Jared, (Freddie Highmore) and Simon (Freddie Highmore) have just moved into an old family home. Jared finds a book written by his great, great uncle Arthur Spiderwick  (David Strathairn) that is a field guide to all of the mystical creatures and their world. Upon opening the book, it draws attention from an ogre named Mulgarath (Nick Nolte) and his goblin-hoard, who have been searching for the book. With help from his sibling and a brownie named Thimbletack (Martin Short), Jared must find a way to defeat Mulgarath and his minions, all while keeping the book safe.

"The Spiderwick Chronicles" is directed Mark Waters, who is known for his comedy films "Mean Girls" and "Freaky Friday." Here, he takes a crack at adapting this fantasy adventure series and bringing it to the big screen. It stars Freddie Highmore, who pulls double duty as twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace. Simon is an intellectual and an all around good kid, while Jared is rebellious and a bit of a troublemaker. Joining Highmore is Sarah Bolger, who plays their older sister Mallory, who enjoys fencing and exerting her authority on her younger brothers. Finally, Mary Louise-Parker plays their mother Helen, a recent divorcee doing the best she can to support her kids. The film also utilizes the voice talents of Nick Nolte, Martin Short, and Seth Rogen, who play a variety of CGI-created fantasy creatures. The plot revolves around a book known as the field guide, written by Authur Spiderwick, played David Strathairn. This book tells of a fantasy world that exists within our own world, just hidden from our mortal vision. It lists all the creatures of this world, plus their strengths and weaknesses, and it also contains a number of spells and charms. It's when Jared finds this book that it draws the attention of the ogre Mulgarath, voiced by Nolte, who wants to use the information within the book to take over the entire world. Luckily, the Grace's house is protected by a magic circle of toadstools, which keep ogres and goblins out of it so long as the book remains in the house. It's pretty safe as long as the book stays put...well, it would have been if Jared didn't keep insisting on taking it out of the circle.

There is a real fun fantasy element to this movie with interesting creatures like Thimbletack the brownie and Hogsqueal the Hobgoblin. The fantastical elements are by far the best parts of this film. Mostly, it's the stuff outside of the magical realm that poses a problem for us. The kid characters are so terribly grating. Both of Freddie Highmore's characters bicker and fight and get in the way, and Bolger's big sister act gets to be a bit much after just about five minutes of it. Their attitudes and squabbling are awful and get on our nerves instantly. The film also tries to have this heart-wrenching plot line about how their dad left them all for another woman, abandoning them without having the guts to tell them to their faces that he's moved on with his life. Way harsh, but this is both ineffective and a waste of time. There are a few other problems with the plot, it feels very slow in its pacing, and almost everything after the magic starts is bogged down by the CGI/real life mix of characters.

In the end, "The Spiderwick Chronicles" is a very basic, very middle of the road, not at all scary fantasy adventure film that exists in a world with far better options for your viewing pleasure. It doesn't do enough to distinguish itself as one of the upper echelon fantasy classics and it's far too boring anyway. The CGI feels outdated now, and it has only been 8 years since this movie was released. There are glimmerings of what could have been a good movie here and there, and because of this, we wouldn't mind seeing it remade in the future, but this incarnation of the story didn't do it for us.

My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 80%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

No comments:

Post a Comment