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DVD Review: The Spiderwick Chronicles

The Spiderwick Chronicles is a magical mini-adventure that is undoubtedly aimed at preteen audience, and this becomes clear quite early on. The main character is a boy of about 13 named Jared Grace who is moving with his mom, older sister, and twin brother into a spooky mansion left to them by their elderly Aunt Lucinda, who was shipped off to the loony bin when she was young. Jared, being 100% against this move, finds every way possible to make his feelings known, which eventually leads to him discovering a secret room in the house. In this room, he finds a book. A note attached to the book warns not to read it, which is dumb because that would make any human being desire to spy the forbidden contents. And he does.

Then we learn that the book has a guardian named Thimbletack, which is a small creature only a few inches high that changes color and grows several times his size when he gets perturbed. And he gets perturbed pretty easily. Anyway, so Jared takes the book outside even though he's told not to, and now goblins are aware that it's back in play, because they work for some nasty ogre named Mulgarath who wants to get his grubby paws on it and I guess have magical book detection powers or something. So the goblins, who can't be seen unless you have a special looking glass, snatch up Jared's identical twin brother thinking it was Jared, the kid with the book.

Jared runs after him, and prior rescuing him, frees a hobgoblin that spits in his eyes allowing Jared to see all these magical creatures who are normally invisible. Nasty, just nasty. So Jared's brother is freed and the pair sprint back to the house with the goblins in tow, but they are stopped cold by some invisible force field surrounding the mansion. Seems Mr. Spiderwick, the dude who wrote the book, put up some spell to keep the bad guys out. Good thinking on his part.

Not knowing what to do next, Jared and his sister use a secret underground tunnel to head into town so that they can visit their cooky old Aunt Lucinda. And of course the dumbass brings the book with him, out of the protective circle where any evil creature could steal it, even though they have been told how if Mulgarath got the book he could destroy the world... and we're supposed to be rooting for this idiot? This is the FATE OF THE WORLD we're talking about here! Well, Mulgarath's goblins strike as you might expect, but at least they aren't able to steal the entire book....

You know, I didn't really get why the book was so important anyway. Yeah, we're told that it contains all the secrets to the magical creatures, and if Mulgarath had it he would then know all their weaknesses and how to destroy them, but Mulgarath seems like a pretty powerful dude anyway with an army of ruthless goblins to back him up. Seems like instead of waiting 50 years hoping the book would come out of hiding, he'd just take his army and start kicking butt. What kind of bad guy just hangs around waiting for a book of secrets that may never even show up again?

There were a lot of special effects here, a bunch of them being computer generated ones. They looked fine for a children's movie but didn't have the realistic impact of those found in the Lord of the Rings films. These looked more cartoonish, more like they popped out of somebodies imagination rather than evolved on the planet like real creatures. Probably the best thing here was Freddie Highmore, who played both Jared and his brother, Simon. They each had completely different personalities, and he pulled that off fantastically. They really felt like two distinct characters that could be brothers.

With the two-disc DVD set, there are a bunch of extra features. On the first disc, there is Spiderwick: It's All True!, It's A Spiderwick World, and Author Spiderwick's Field Guide. On the second disc, there is Spiderwick: Meet the Clan, Making Spiderwick: The Magic of Spiderwick!, A Final Word of Advice..., and some deleted scenes. They were neither bad nor special. The film was based on a series of books, so you get learn a little more about that, as well as about the actors and the creatures. They'd probably be more interesting if I had been more interested in the movie itself.

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