Film review – The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

The latest much-loved children’s fantasy novel series to receive a lavish Hollywood film adaptation is The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. Helmed by Mean Girls director Mark Waters, the film adaptation follows the plot of the 5 novels about a group of siblings who discover a hidden world of magical creatures. The children learn that this world had been documented in a book by their great uncle and they now must protect this book from the forces of evil that seek the knowledge it contains.

The film starts off badly as it rushes through lots of over-explanatory dialogue and insists that the audience accepts Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) in the duel role of rebellious Jared, who has anger management issues, and his studious and pacifist identical twin brother Simon. But just when the film appears to be yet another cliché and CGI fest, it introduces the darker elements within the magical world that presents genuine menace and scares.

A reoccurring theme about absent fathers, some exhilarating action sequences and an intoxicatingly threatening atmosphere makes The Spiderwick Chronicles a satisfying family-film experience.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 301, 2008

© Thomas Caldwell, 2008