The Spiderwick Chronicles
2.5 Waffles!

Freddie Highmore stars as Jared – a young man disturbed and troubled by all of the upheaval in his life. His mother (Mary Louise Parker) and father are getting a divorce, so he, his twin brother, Simon (also Highmore), and older sister, Mallory (Sarah Bolger), are moving into an old, rundown family home in the countryside. Looking for something to do in the middle of nowhere, and to get away from everyone, Jared starts poking around secret areas of this old estate, discovers Arthur Spiderwick’s (David Strathairn) office, and finds a mysterious book.

Inside, he reads about the invisible world all around him full of frightening and magical hidden creatures, but the book’s protector, Thimbletack (voice by Martin Short), warns him of danger if the evil ogre Mulgrath (voice by Nick Nolte) seizes the tome and attempts to take over the world. Of course, Mulgrath sees his opportunity and decides to go for it.

Can Jared, Simon and Mallory win the battle with Mulgrath’s evil army? Will any adults believe them?

Based on the books by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, The Spiderwick Chronicles is good enough to keep you and an older child entertained, but don’t expect the next Harry Potter fever to emerge from this movie. Throughout the film, you feel like some of these moments and themes have popped up before as one character speaks like he is straight from a Dr. Seuss book, another is going on like Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride and the whole idea of an invisible world is very much like Arthur and the Minimoys (which was released in book form in France in 2002. The Spiderwick Chronicles book came out in 2003, but I don’t want you to think they copied from each other. Let’s call it coincidence.).

However, director Mark Waters makes an efficient movie that keeps the plot moving forward, and spares us the long drawn out ending most movies tend to go for these days. He’s a director who knows when it is over, and moves on. Meanwhile, Water also knows how to make this magical world come to life with the right amounts of frights, mystery and comic relief.

If you have small children, The Spiderwick Chronicles may have goofy characters that appeal to them, but you should watch out for the violence and scary images. While the film is rated PG, kids under 10-years old may be frightened by the sword fights where characters get stabbed and sliced, monsters attack our heroes, and some people get dragged away into the forest. One character even comes close to blurting out an expletive, but the edit happens early enough to stop us from hearing the entire word, but late enough for almost everyone to know what word is being spoken.

The Spiderwick Chronicles will not start a new fad, but might be enough to give you a reason to head to the movies this weekend.

The Spiderwick Chronicles is rated PG for scary creature action and violence, peril and some thematic elements