out of Five
Running time: 95
Enjoyable, well made children's fantasy adventure with likeable characters, impressive special effects and a decent script.
What's it all about?
Based on a popular series of children's books, The Spiderwick Chronicles stars Freddie Highmore as Jared Grace, a young boy who is none too happy to be moving into a run-down family mansion along with his twin brother Simon (also Highmore), their older sister Mallory (Sarah Bolger) and their newly-separated mother (Mary-Louise Parker).
However, Jared is lifted out of his boredom when he discovers a mysterious notebook written by his great uncle Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn), entitled Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You.
The book opens Jared's eyes to a world of goblins, faeries and other creatures, including house-dwelling Brownies and an evil ogre called Mulgarath (a brilliantly cast Nick Nolte), who'll stop at nothing to get his hands on the book. Soon, the house is under siege and Jared and his siblings find they have to work together to protect the secrets of the book.
Freddie Highmore is excellent, creating two very distinct and likeable characters, while Sarah Bolger delivers a lively and appealing performance as Mallory, who also turns out to be handy with a sword, allowing for a welcome spot of swashbuckling. There's also strong support from Strathairn, Nolte and Parker, as well as a couple of amusing vocal performances by Seth Rogen (as Hogsqueal, an easily-distracted Hobgoblin) and Martin Short as Thimbletack, the Brownie / Boggart.
The effects are excellent throughout and the script is both involving and pleasingly modern in its outlook – for example, it comes down on the side of single parenting rather than go for the usual cliched reunion scene. Similarly, director Mark Waters maintains an energetic pace that ensures there are no dull stretches.
In addition, the action sequences are well-staged and have a quirky charm that works well – for example, the fact that goblins can be killed with ketchup bombs.
In short, The Spiderwick Chronicles is a highly entertaining fantasy adventure that will appeal to all ages. Highly recommended.
The Spiderwick Chronicles (PG)