The Spiderwick Chronicles Mark Waters

The Spiderwick Chronicles Mark Waters
Since there can only be so many Harry Potter films, studios assume the youthful fantasy fan base who line their pockets with Hogwarts’ cash require frequent offerings to tide them over between episodes of the wee wizard’s adventures. Those offerings have ranged from the laughably atrocious (The Seeker) and the shiny but bland (The Golden Compass) to the magically noble but uneven (The Narnia Series). Thankfully, Mark Waters’ adaptation of The Spiderwick Chronicles, based on the series of children’s books written by Holly Black and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi, ends up near the reverent charm of Narnia. Supposedly based on actually letters the author received from three children describing their experiences with creatures from the unseen world around us, The Spiderwick Chronicles tells the tale of twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace, and their older sister Mallory, who encounter all manner of mythical creatures after Jared discovers an old book in a secret room of the decrepit house they move into, which explains the art of "seeing” and chronicles the magical creatures inhabiting this unseen realm. The concept and execution are pretty fascinating, and though the story is very much aimed at children, it’s not too much of a stretch to recognise some connections of this "veiled world” concept with the metaphysics of Castaneda and Wiccan philosophy. At its core, Spiderwick is more of an intimate family story than most of its apocalyptic peers, and that personal sense of scale works in its favor. Freddy Highmore’s dual lead role as both Grace twins is impressive — my lack of familiarity with his prior work made me wonder if real twins were cast. Nick Nolte, Ron Pearlman, Martin Short and Seth Rogan all contribute lively voice acting, though only Rogan shows up to goof off in the DVD extras. There’s a whole "this is reality” shtick running through the special features, which is pretty lame, but the features themselves are fairly comprehensive, if standard in their presentation. A click through version of the "Field Guide” and an "In-Movie” mode are included, along with discussions on the story’s origin, the cast, the production and animation, and the requisite deleted scenes. (Paramount)