The Spiderwick Chronicles opens with the recently divorced Helen Grace
bringing her family, teenaged Mallory, and tween twins Jared and Simon, to an
old family mansion in the woods that has remained untouched for several years.
Almost immediately after moving in strange occurrences begin to plague the
family, and Jared's investigation into their cause eventually leads him to find
a secret office in the house. It's here that he finds the Spiderwick Chronicles,
a book written by his great-great-uncle. The Chronicles tell of the fairy world
that lives alongside our own and the secrets of its denizens. Such knowledge is
also sought by an ogre king, Mulgrath, who will stop at nothing to get the book
and to learn the secrets it contains.
The Spiderwick Chronicles is one of those film adaptations that leaves you
with the feeling that there's a lot of things in the original books that has
been left out of the movie. The movie tells a complete story, but some of its
elements feel glossed over and there's a tendency for the new characters to
provide quick overviews of themselves when introduced, as if you were meeting
them at a speed dating event and the clock was ticking. A ten year old may not
notice or care, especially if he or she has read the series of books on which
the movie is based. While this all does keep the movie zipping along, afterwards
you are left with this feeling that there was probably more to the story.
The Spiderwick Chronicles makes extensive use of computer generated effects
to bring its fairy world creatures to life but it resists the temptation to rely
on special effects alone to carry the movie. The creatures are lifelike and
well-animated, and this helps make you believe that such creatures could really
exist. With all of the technology behind the creatures its surprising that the
movie doesn't do too well with an old movie trick. A split screen technique is
used when Jared and Simon appear on screen together, but when they are speaking
to each other they never make eye contact. Each of them appears to be looking
past or to the side of each other. It's a small detail, but one of those things
that you can't help but notice and be distracted by it.
Overall The Spiderwick Chronicles does a pretty decent job of bringing a
magical world to life. It won't necessarily grab hold of your imagination and
refuse to let go, but it's a fun little visit to a world where trolls and
fairies exist. The Two-Disc Special Edition DVD comes with a number of special
features that give you a look at how the film was made and some looks into Spiderwick's world. The features are well-produced, and add a nice set of
companion pieces to the film.