Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles

“It’s a shack.”

The story begins when a mother (Mary-Louise Parker), now separted from her husband (Andrew McCarthy), takes her children Jared (Freddie Highmore), Not-Jared (also Freddie Highmore) and Mallory (Sarah Bolger) to live in the abandoned house of their great-uncle Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn).

The house comes complete with cobwebs, hidden rooms, a brownie named Thimbletack (Martin Short), and a book of mystical secrets made by Arthur Spiderwick before his disappearance decades ago.

After Jared discovers the book, and learns the secrets within, his family comes under attack from goblins led by a shape-shifting ogre named Mulgarath (Nick Nolte) who wants to use the knowledge in the book to take over the world.

The adventure leads the kids to their lost uncle, new friends including a bird-eating, flem-spitting hobgoblin in a tree (Seth Rogen) and a final battle to save the day.

The film includes a variety of creatures and effects including goblins, trolls, ogres, fairies, and the like. Although the special effects are all well-done there is something missing here, as aside from Hogsqueal (Rogen) none of the creatures make an impression. And when your most interesting character is basically a talking pig in a tree…

I’ve never read the books this film is based on and found the prelude confusing, though it is adequately explained later on, but I’m sure fans of the stories will be able to jump right in from the get-go. Although I’ve been told the books are actually better than those of J.K. Rowlings, the film never gets close to the levels of even the worst of the Harry Potter films. I’d rate it slightly behind the likes of last year’s Bridge to Terabithia (read that review) and although I can’t quite recommend the film I believe youngsters and fans of the books will enjoy themselves more than this critic.

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