About a year ago, I read the first of the books in the Spiderwick Chronicles series: The Field Guide. It took me all of thirty minutes. Hmm, maybe that was because the book was meant for readers one-third my age. Anyway, I still enjoyed it, but when I heard a film version was coming out, I thought, “How in the world are they going to stretch that short story into a full-length feature?” The short answer is, they didn’t. The Spiderwick Chronicles is a ninety-seven-minute movie based on all but one of the books in the series (The Ironwood Tree’s plot is left out, for those of you who have read the complete set). The film follows Mallory, Simon and Jared Grace as they move into a creepy old house with their mom and discover that a world of goblins, faeries and other fantastic creatures is surrounding them.
Whenever I watch a movie that is geared toward kids, I usually feel satisfied at the end but am not overly impressed. That’s another way of saying that I’m often ambivalent. If I don’t like the movie, an obnoxious young actor or actress is typically to blame. Therefore, I’m happy to report that I really enjoyed The Spiderwick Chronicles—I thought it was surprisingly fun to watch. Thankfully, the young leads in this film held their own. The same person actually accounted for two of them: the wonderful Freddie Highmore from Finding Neverland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and August Rush played twin brothers Simon and Jared, so perhaps he has something to do with my favorable review.
I do have a word of caution for parents of small kids, though. There were many scenes that were outright scary in The Spiderwick Chronicles, where I found myself thinking, “Yikes, that’s pretty intense for a PG-rated film!” If you are worried that your child may get upset, The Water Horse is a safer bet.
And for any of you who were raised in the ’80s, there’s a surprise appearance from a Brat Packer near the end. If that doesn’t get your curiosity up, I don’t know what will.