The Spiderwick Chronicles

Posted on June 23, 2008 at 8:00 am

spiderwick%20poster.jpgThe best-selling series of books about children who find their mysterious old house surrounded by magical creatures has been turned into a visually sumptuous treat for fans of fantasy and imagination.
Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) plays twins Jared and Simon Grace, who with their sister Mallory (Sara Bolger of In America) and mother (Mary-Louise Parker) move into a spooky old mansion that once belonged to their great-uncle. Mallory and Simon have accepted the move but Jared is furious about their parents’ split and unhappy about the new home.

Jared discovers a book that has been hidden in a trunk and sealed up with a warning note — which he immediately disregards. He opens it up to find that it is….great-great-uncle Arthur Spiderwick’s field guide to magical creatures, a kind of encyclopedia with all of their habitats and powers. An evil ogre named Mulgarath (voice of Nick Nolte) wants that guide so that he can assume power over all of the magical and non-magical world.
Gorgeous cinematography from Caleb Deschanel (The Black Stallion) and wonderfully intricate production design from James D. Bissell create a believably magical world of dusty tomes and toothy goblins. The story gently intertwines the modern-day conflicts faced by the children of a dissolving marriage with the challenges of the fantasy world, and the committed performances by David Straitharn as Spiderwick and Joan Plowright as his daughter are as important in making the magical characters real as the superb CGI effects that bring the books’ illustrations to life.
Parents should know that this movie has some scary monsters with big teeth. Children are in peril and there are some injuries, plus a lot of monster carnage. There is a reference to suicide and an apparent stabbing of a parent. There are some tense family confrontations and some audience members may be disturbed by the references to infidelity and divorce. Characters use brief bad language.
Families who see this movie should talk about the people who enjoy cataloging nature and categorizable items. How were each child’s skills and knowledge important in fighting the creatures?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The NeverEnding Story and Labyrinth. And they will enjoy the books by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi.

Related Tags:


Action/Adventure Animation Based on a book Fantasy

15 Replies to “The Spiderwick Chronicles”

  1. Does anyone ever actually just say these chase movies for children are just boring, even if they feature scary ogres or goblins? That’s right, boring. For the whole family.

  2. Thanks for writing, Irina! I am hoping that a range of reactions will be helpful to those who come to this site looking for guidance. I often find movies for kids are boring or condescending — that’s why I won’t recommend a movie that is otherwise unobjectionable unless I think the story and performances are worthwhile — but I did not feel that way about “Spiderwick,” in part because it was so visually arresting and in part, as I said in my review, because of the parallels between the fantasy and real-life stories.

  3. I loved The Spiderwick Chronicles. I went to see it first with just my husband to check it out for the kids. I was glad to see that there were no “demonic” creatures in the film, and there was no underlying “evil” tone. Yes, there were goblins and a big-bad ogre – but these creatures did not have that scary edge to them that causes me not let my kids see a movie. It was very intense and you should think about whether or not you should take your younger children to see it. My husband and I both jumped a time or two. We will be taking our children back to see it. Most of them have read at least some of the books and have been very interested in going to see the movie. Also, as an educator I will be buying my own set of books to read to my class. Suggestion: See in on the IMAX screen if you can. It feels like you’re in the movie.

  4. My almost 6-year-old son and I have read the entire series of the Spiderwick books together and he really enjoyed them (we also have the Field Guide, which he loves). He’s not a kid who has had a lot of media exposure, and the most violence he’s ever seen is perhaps a few of the ads that come on during football games (and he hasn’t seen many of those). Do you think that this movie would be too scary for him? He really wants to see it because he loves the books so much. I think he can handle the emotional conflict.

  5. Thanks so much, Marcey — that is just the kind of information and insight I am hoping to have on this site.
    As for the question about the almost-six-year-old — that is a good bit younger than my usual recommendation for this movie. However, you know your child better than anyone. If he is very familiar with the story and you think he is unlikely to be scared by the big-teethed, green-blooded monsters, then it is worth a try. I would prepare him ahead of time, rehearsing with him what he can do if he feels scared (a little bit scared, hold your had, a little more, climb on your lap, a little more, close his eyes, a little more, go to the lobby for a few minutes and decide whether to leave). Make it clear that it is his decision and if he wants to leave you will do so without any objection. You might make sure he sees the trailer for the film (available online) and talks to you about what parts he thinks will be scariest. If you do take him, please let me know how it goes.

  6. I took my 7 year old son and his friend to it last night. My son and I had read the first book, but his friend had not. The friend was scared and wanted to leave, but my son wasn’t scared at all. I think by reading the book and talking about it, he was prepared for what was going to happen. He enjoyed finding the differences between the book and the movie.

  7. Warning: Spoilers!
    I took my 8 yr old to this movie. I would have to say it was too scary for him. I was especially disturbed by the boy Jarred stabbing his “father” (turns out to be the evil goblin) My son wanted to stay, but was in my lap with his ears covered (he doesn’t like the loudness of most movies)
    The non- fighting parts were beautiful. The movie is a bit slow, but since we’d read the books, we couldn’t wait to see all the fairy creatures. The brownie/boggart (voiced by Martin Short) is hilarious, and my son enjoyed the hobgoblin’s disqusting antics.

  8. Thanks for writing, Jenna — I agree it is too intense for many under-10’s. Your comments are very helpful.

  9. Movie Mom is way off base on this one. Really, any kid under 10 has no business seeing this movie. References to suicide and stabbing the dad (before you knew it was the dad) were awful. This reminds me of many other PG-movies which should be at least PG-13. Like I said, I expected Movie Mom to dig into this one…I am severely disappointed with her take and just leaves me to question the relevance of this site.

  10. I am sorry you were disappointed, Peter, and I will amend the parental advisory to reflect the points you made. As noted above, I agree that it is too intense for many under-10s. The way the age recommendations are organized on this site does not give me the flexibility to go by individual ages — it is just 4-6 grade or middle school, and I felt a lot of 5th and 6th graders could handle it well. It is nowhere near what gets a PG-13 these days (see this week’s “Never Back Down” for example), but that is a reflection of the general ratcheting down of the MPAA rating system.

  11. This movie is actually rather enjoyable…be the best decision if you’re kid should see it. The action near the end is really tense but my 9 year old cousin handeled it just fine due to the beautiful ending. This movie would not be as beautiful and the good things would not be as enjoyable if there wasn’t any darkness to compare it with…and the dark scenes have humor and funny parts in them. It prob. isn’t good for ten year olds, but 12 year olds will LOVE it.

  12. I took my 7 year old daughter to see this movie when it came out and she LOVED it. She and I did not read the books and I was delighted to see this very well-made movie. She was not scared at the “scary” parts. I hope that they make more of this books into movies.
    I defintely take my daughter to see any movie made by Walden Media. These movies (Because of Winn Dixie, Holes, Hoot, Bride to Terbithia, and others) are very well done. It opens the door for me to read these books to my daughter and then we compare and contrast the movie and the book.
    What do you think of Journey to the Center of the Earth??

  13. This is the kind of movie where you have to know your child. My 7-year-old daughter was very scared by this movie (she had nightmares) and there were quite a few other kids her age who were crying from it, but there were also kid close to her age who were fine. I would recommend it for kids 11-12 years or older to be safe.

  14. Very helpful, Scott, thanks. I think the kids most likely to be comfortable with it are those who are already familiar with the story from the books.

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