The Spiderwick Chronicles is based on a series of books by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black that chronicles the adventures of the Grace children; twins Simon and Jared and their older sister Mallory, after they move into the eponymous Spiderwick Estate and discover a world of faeries that they never knew existed. The mansion itself plays a big role in the story. I suppose many will think of the Addams Family home when they see it, as I did. The house is peculiar and purposefully creepy. The place isn’t haunted; it feels like someone lives there.
The film is about a soon-to-be-divorced mom, Helen Grace (Mary-Louise Parker), and her three children the rebellious Jared (Freddie Higmore), one of her twin sons who misses his father and wants to move back to the city, the quieter and more introspective twin, Simon who goes to great lengths to avoid conflict (Highmore in a dual role) and the twins fifteen year-old sister Mallory (Sarah Bolger), a dedicated fencer who seems to never leave home without her sword. In an attempt to start a new life, Grace takes her family to live at a crumbling mansion. The house is referred to as Spiderwick, named after her grandfather Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn), who disappeared under very mysterious circumstances, some eighty years before. According to the children’s great-aunt Lucinda (Joan Plowright), sylphs came and carried her father off to a mysterious land, perhaps the Kingdom of Fairie, to protect him. Shortly thereafter, she was taken to a sanitarium where she’s been ever since.
Just a few minutes after arriving at the house, one of the twins hears noises in the walls, and household items start disappearing. Eventually, Jared finds his uncle Arthur’s book, Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You, and despite dire warnings to the contrary, starts to read it. Jared quickly discovers that his uncle had discovered the secret to seeing and communicating with seemingly invisible creatures in the woods– the sprites, goblins, hobgoblins, ogres, trolls, fairies, boggarts, griffins, sylphs, and other creatures. More importantly, he learns that the king of the goblins is out to get the Field Guide at any cost.
Obviously, from here on out, the children are embroiled in an adventure filled with mystery and danger. With the help of a Seeing Stone, Jared is given the ability to see all of the creatures of the woods mentioned in the guide. Some of them are rather amusing, like Thumbletack (voice of Martin Short), some are scary like Boggart (Short again), others are helpful but not entirely trustworthy, like Hogsqueal (voice of Seth Rogen.)
I’ve often found that films directed at the pre-teen or “tween” audience have little to offer adults. The Spiderwick Chronicles bucks that trend and is really a film for the whole family. Some younger children may even be scared by the monsters and goblins that pop up throughout the story. There are some truly hairy moments that the Grace children are forced to find their way out of. In recent years, it seems like family movies are so sanitized that they lack any sense of mystery or adventure. Director Mark Waters (Freaky Friday) did a commendable job crafting a film full of twists and turns that will delight the whole family.
The Blu-ray is presented in a wide, 2.35:1-ratio, in a MPEG4/AVC, 1080p transfer. The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Surround sound.
The Blu-ray also includes English, French, and Spanish spoken languages; English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.
The special features the Blu-ray edition duplicate the extras on the two-disc standard DVD, with the addition of an enhanced in-movie version of Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide. This feature allows the viewer to find special notes throughout the film, as you see them you can leave the movie and go to the Field Guide. You can also click on each of the creatures and get text information on them. Next, is the featurette, “Spiderwick: It’s All True!,” in which the director introduces us to the “Field Guide” and to the creatures in the story. Next, is “It’s a Spiderwick World!” in which the books’ authors explain where they got their story ideas. Then there’s “Spiderwick: Meet the Clan!” where we get to meet members of the films cast and crew and get a peek behind-the-scenes. “Making Spiderwick!” gives viewers a closer look at the sets, costumes and locations of the film. “The Magic of Spiderwick!” delves into the CGI animation that was used in the film. Finally, the director returns for “A Final Word of Advice…” wich is basically just a quick summing up of all the information given out in the previous features.
Also included, are four deleted scenes, several Nickelodeon TV spots and two widescreen theatrical trailers.
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