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The Spiderwick Chronicles (***)
directed by Mark Waters
written by Karey Kirkpatrick, David Berenbaum, and John Sayles,
based on the series of books by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
Principal Cast
Freddie Highmore -- Jared Grace / Simon Grace
Sarah Bolger -- Mallory Grace
Mary-Louise Parker -- Helen Grace
Joan Plowright -- Aunt Lucinda
David Strathairn -- Arthur Spiderwick
Nick Nolte -- Mulgarath (voice)
Martin Short -- Thimbletack (voice)
Seth Rogen -- Hogsqueal (voice)
Jordy Benattar -- Young Lucinda
Andrew McCarthy -- Richard
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

The Spiderwick Chronicles The Spiderwick Chronicles is a charming children's movie, which adults can enjoy -- though probably not the same adults who enjoy, say, 30 Days of Night. It is aimed at a younger crowd than The Golden Compass, and requires a certain tolerance for "cute." Still, it is considerably better than the pervious fantasy film aimed at this age group, The Dark is Rising. There are some ways in which the movie reminded me of more adult fairy tales, such as Little, Big by John Crowley and Good Faeries Bad Faeries, by Brian Froud. But a few totally unbelievable scenes, played for laughs, keep it firmly aimed at pre-teens.

One difficult moment in every film of this type is the instant when the main character is transformed from a doubter to a believer. Which set me to wondering -- could such a transition take place in real life? Of course, many people believe in impossible things: the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot, Area 51. But they believe because of the lack of evidence. In the absence of evidence, such beliefs are safe and are considered to be "cool," in a nerdy sort of way. Actually confronted with a Bigfoot, I suspect most people would run like hell and never look back.

This seems even more likely in the case of a kid confronted by real fairies, goblins, and ogres. In stories like this, of course, sooner or later the protagonist has got to accept the evidence in front of his nose, or there would not be any story to tell. The Spiderwick Chronicles does a good job with the first character's suspension of disbelief. The other characters come around a little too quickly. In real life, I suspect a kid would rather die at the hands of goblins than admit that he's seen a fairy.

The film is enjoyable light fantasy adventure with pretty special effects and appealing kids. To my surprise, it is doing better box office than Jumper, which had good trailers but bad reviews.

Copyright © 2008 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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