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Sivosten webZine :: The Spiderwick Chronicles
The Spiderwick Chronicles

Author: Konstantin Delchev, Sunday, 25 May 2008.

In Articles :: Movies & Animation; Propose a Second Opinion

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Since the Harry Potter-s, we witness an increasing number of films inspired by children or well, teen fantasy. We saw the first Narnia film, we saw Eragon, we saw the Golden Compass, which even managed to steal a little Oscar like a gobbler. And recently, we saw The Spiderwick Chronicles.

On first glance yet another movie based on not so famous book. We were promised magic, children in puberty, monsters nothing special too. Even the cast Sara Bolger (Stormbreaker) and Freddie Highmore (voice actor, Pantalaimon - The Golden Compass, Arthur - Arthur et les Minimoys; actor Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), who stars as both of the twins Jared and Simon Grace somehow point towards yet another fantasy for kids. Or at best a family fantasy.

The beginning, however is somehow different thunders, mumbling scientist with Miskatonic features, writing some book in frenzy and 80 years later a desolate house, surrounded by impenetrable darkness, in front of which stops one not so perfect family. We are presented the lone mother Helen and her kids the teenage fencer Mallory, going through some kind of angsty period, and the aforementioned twins. None of them provokes a lot of sympathy they dont have Harrys family environment, they are not charming as the Prevencies and if they were your neighbors, youd be probably scheming something nasty against such rascals. The following scenes are dark, with a sequence of conflicts screened European like and the few minor but inexplicable events are presented in such a way that the viewer starts to develop a hope for seeing something with well-developed characters, interesting plot and mature attitude towards the supernatural.

Almost! Shortly after this, we see the first magical creature and to our inexplicable horror it turns to be one-span-tall grotesque humanoid with psychotic behavior that almost provokes you to swat it with a shoe! From here the Supernatural turns from fearsome and mysterious to one really grotesque, full with ugly animated garden dwarffrog hybrids, one whose secrets can be gathered in a notebook with the size of a junior-high textbook, one that can be mastered by an ordinary seven-grader for half a night.

The somewhat sentient fairytale creatures (yup, they are exactly fairytale) can be divided into three categories imbeciles, obsessive-compulsive and most often obsessive-compulsive imbeciles. From almost Lovecraftian material the situation suddenly mutates to Pratchett-Carroll crossbreed and the plot is organized as series of jump-and-runs, interrupted by dialogues about the evil ogre or the family values.

The second plan, the one of the family falling apart is quickly dismissed, all conflicts solved or simply forgotten, after which the ending a-la The puss in boots totally steals the cake, leaving no need of further commentaries whatsoever.

The acting doesnt reach Richard Burton levels, but as a whole is much more pleasant than the plot. Freddie Highmore is considerably experienced for a fifteen-year old, Sara Bolger does what is required by her somewhat simple role, and Mary-Louise Parker after nearly 40 episodes of Weeds is probably not viewing the part of a lone mother with difficult children as something new. David Strathairn, as Arthur Spiderwick is too vague and creates the feeling that he acts against his will, but the veteran Joan Plowright, more than compensates as his venerable daughter. It is a pity that we see her only in few scenes.

Nick Nolte unfortunately we only manage to hear as the voice of the utterly annoying arch-villain Mulgarath. There is no man on earth that can manage to pull something out of such character.

As a whole, if you are provided with a bunch of twelve-year olds and a few spare bucks, this movie is a good way to combine them. Just plan the day in such a way that after the few twenty minutes, you can leave them watching and go to do something useful for the next hour.

Commentary topic: http://www.sivosten.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=203700#203700

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