Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

The Spiderwick Chronicles (2-Disc Field Guide Edition)

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
6 out of 10
Extras Rating:
7 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: PG

Starring:
Freddie Highmore as Jared Grace / Simon Grace
Sarah Bolger as Mallory Grace
Nick Nolte as Mulgarath
Mary-Louise Parker as Helen Grace
Joan Plowright as Aunt Lucinda Spiderwick
David Strathairn as Arthur Spiderwick
Seth Rogen as Hogsqueal (voice)
Jordy Benattar as Young Lucinda
Martin Short as Thimbletack (voice)
Andrew McCarthy as Richard Grace
Lise Durocher-Viens as Mrs. Spiderwick

Special Features:
Disc 1:
Spiderwick: It's All True!
It's A Spiderwick World
Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide

Disc 2:
Spiderwick: Meet the Clan
Making Spiderwick
The Magic of Spiderwick!
A Final Word of Advice...
Deleted Scenes And More!

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Subtitles
Spanish and French Languages
Running Time: 101 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the official synopsis of the film:

"From the moment the Grace family moves into a secluded old house, strange things start to happen. As Jared (Freddie Highmore) investigates, he discovers Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide and the unbelievable truth of the Spiderwick Estate: a secret world with fantastical creatures hide within our own! Now Jared, his sister and his twin brother are pulled into an unforgettable adventure as they try to protect the secrets of the book. Based on the beloved series of best-selling books and filled with non-stop action, 'The Spiderwick Chronicles' is a terrific fantasy for all ages!"

"The Spiderwick Chronicles" is rated PG for scary creature action and violence, peril and some thematic elements.

Mini-Review:
My daughter read the book "The Spiderwick Chronicles" and was very excited to see it on DVD. And since I'm a big Phil Tippet fan, I was excited to see what he was able to come up with for the creatures. While this is a fun concept, the movie surprised me in a number of ways.

First of all, I was surprised by how violent it was for a PG movie. Monsters bite the legs of children and we see them draw blood. We see the older sister graphically pour peroxide on the cuts and the boy screams out. We see scary monsters chase kids down tunnels, bite, scratch, and try to kill the mother and kids. While this was OK for my 9 year old daughter, my 6 and 3 year olds were freaked out. Parents should be warned.

The other thing that surprised me was how dark the story was with respect to the children dealing with the parents' divorce. Jared is tortured by the abandonment by his father and takes it out on his mother. This is taken to the point where Jared, in one scene, stabs a fake version of his father with a knife. The writers seem to be working out their 'Daddy Issues' with this story. It's quite dark.

The other thing that surprised me was the casting. First of all, Freddie Highmore plays twins. Unfortunately, it's more of a distraction than anything. Knowing it's the same actor playing both characters, you spend most of the time just trying to figure out how they filmed him. It would have been better to drop the twin plot point and use two different kids. Also, we've seen Highmore with a British accent in so many films that his America accent doesn't seem all that convincing. It feels a tad off. Since Irish actress Sarah Bolger is an unknown, she's a lot more convincing with her accent. Another 'off' bit of casting is Nick Nolte as Mulgarath. Rather than eliciting fear when he arrives, he generates more snickers instead from adults as he resembles his crazy mugshot photos. The addition of Seth Rogen is a bit better as his voice fits the character. Same with Martin Short as Thimbletack.

I've kind of picked apart this film so far. So what's good about it? The special effects are quite impressive. The creatures all look great and have amazing designs. I particularly liked the fairies that looked like flowers, the troll, and the griffin. If you're into fantasy and special effects, this alone will make the movie worth viewing.

I'd recommend "The Spiderwick Chronicles" to anyone that read (and enjoyed) the book, anyone that's into fantasy, and kids 8 and older.

This "2-Disc Field Guide Edition" has a lot of bonus features, but none of them particularly stand out. They're all your standard extras like 'making of' featurettes, discussions about visual effects, discussion about the story, and other typical stuff. The DVD does open with director Mark Waters insisting everything is true, but it's not as charming as you might hope. You'll also find 4 deleted scenes that are fairly minor. One shows more harassment by Thimbletack in the kitchen of the house which causes problems for Jared.

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