Five stories for the price of one is the theme of this young person's film. The Spiderwick Chronicles series, written by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, of five books has been made into one action-packed film by director Mark Waters (Just Like Heaven, Mean Girls). While you might now be scratching your head thinking that while Waters has shown a touch for light comedies that this might be too much of stretch for him, but, fear not, he shows that he possesses the restraint required for this type of family fantasy/adventure film.
Many directors forget that there is a different touch required for adult adventure films (frenetic pace, mind-blowing special effects, a dose of violence, etc.) than there is for fantasy films aimed at young people. Waters keeps the focus on the story and wonder he builds up through his assorted creatures rather than turn to trying to blow our minds with CGI effects.
The story is of three young people and the assorted creatures (goblins, ogres, etc.) they find in the backyard of their new home. Jared (cute as a button Freddie Highmore from August Rush and Finding Neverland) is not happy about leaving his beloved New York City for a new rural home. He is surly with his newly divorced mother (Mary-Louise Parker of Weeds) who also has to deal with her fire breathing daughter, Mallory (Sarah Bolger from In America). The only calm member of the family is Jared's twin brother, Simon (double dose of Highmore).
Due to his cranky mood, when a couple of pranks happen in the house Jared is blamed. It is soon discovered that the pranks were played by Thimbletack (the zany Martin Short), a brownie (similar to an elf). Jared also discovers there are many different types of creatures living in their backyard.
Realizing that one of the creatures is after a book left behind by his great-great uncle, Arthur Spiderwick (David Straithairn from Good Night and Good Luck and The Bourne Ultimatum), Jared attempts to protect it while at the same time trying to convince his mother and two siblings of the existence of another world in their own backyard.
Though at times the film slips down that slippery overdone slope of the misunderstood kid of divorce and that all siblings fight like cats and dogs, the film mostly stays the course of trying to create a magical world in which kids and adults alike can lose themselves in. Part of the kudos should go to the film crew right here in Montreal (where the film was shot) for creating a lively and realistic other world.
Filled with touching moments and off played by plenty of humour, the film is a fun time at the movies for families looking for a little diversion from the humid weather. It is chock full of wonder and mystery of the likes that we have not seen done (well!) in a while.
– Keep Case – 2-Disc Set