The Spiderwick Chronicles

Cover Art and Menus: 5/10
The cover is, um, you know…adventure fantasy cookie cutter style. It’s functional. The menu is the new standard in Blu-Ray, the pop up menu that’s customized to the movie. It’s ok, I’m pretty neutral here at the moment folks.

Features: 7/10

  • Spiderwick It’s All True – The director does his best to convince us that the whole world of Spiderwick is real and true. It’s got that promo feel to it, like you might see it on TV or showing in a loop at the DVD rental place down the street.
  • It’s A Spiderwick World Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide (Enhanced On Blu-Ray Version) – This is a pretty good extra. As you watch the movie you get pop up facts about the fantasy world of Spiderwick, and throughout you get the chance to check the field guide to learn more about the creatures and goings on of their world. The pop ups seem pretty fast and furious so you are not waiting around for fun facts to sneak up on you.
  • Spiderwick Meet The Clan – The characters of the story are all here to learn more about each one.
  • Making Spiderwick The Magic Of Spiderwick – Behind the scenes of how the books were created and how it all got from page to big screen. It’s a pretty good feature if you love the movie and the books. The authors are on set and discuss the creation of this new kind of fantasy adventure.
  • A Final Word Of Advice – More from the director telling us that it’s all real even though we just saw ILM making the movie magic.
  • Deleted Scenes – You might find some interesting tid bits in here, but nothing that was missed in the final movie.
  • & More ???

Movie: 7/10
I do believe in some things I can’t see, like fate, love, the IRS, and the internet. Are these things legend, myth, or reality that remains hidden in the shadows of our world? We could spend centuries exploring the vast possibilities of these wondrous wisps of imagination, but for now I’ll just move on to something a bit more realistic like faeries and goblins.

Speaking of fairies and goblins, The Chronicles of Spiderwick covers their world in a way I haven’t seen before. Well, not exactly. Spiderwick starts with a family broken, troubled, and trying to start new life. A mom with three teenagers moves into a rural house that did belong to her aunt but due to the crazies it was turned over to our young mother. There’s not a lot of fuss and muss about how that could all be legal or how the old lady is this woman’s aunt…but that’s neither here nor there, nor any concern of the screenwriters.

We immediately figure out that one of the sons has some anger issues, and within a few minutes he and we are introduced to the little living thing in the wall of this old house. Bob Villa wouldn’t be very happy about the destruction taking place, but it’s fast and furious and again, the reality of a kid tearing the crap out of the wall of their home isn’t really treated with much upset. We progress quickly to the heart of the story, faeries and goblins, etc.
There is a world of creatures we cannot see but one man spent his life learning about that world and wrote it all in a book. The secrets of how these creatures live, how they protect themselves, and what makes them vulnerable is all in the book, a field guide. That book is in a trunk in the old house our troubled little family has moved into. The anger kid finds it, opens it, and all hell breaks loose. That about sums it up.

There is the matter of a bad guy who looks a lot like Ron Howard’s Grinch on mega steroids, gross toad looking goblins, a pig-snouted hobgoblin, dandelion seed creatures that look fantastic, and an old lady with the crazies…but not really. When the old aunt was a girl her father, Arthur Spiderwick was whisked away by the dandelion seed creatures for his own good. He knew too much about their world and they needed to protect us all from his knowledge. Crazy aunt was considered crazy because she insisted there were fairies and goblins and other such things in the world. We quickly find out she was right, not crazy, but still she hadn’t quite figured out how to defeat the darker forces at work, so she was just trying to stay alive. Yes, these goblins are hazardous to your health. This isn’t a cushy little fantasy for these kids to be living through. I felt a real sense of danger for them in some situations, which is a good thing. I like that it has a darker side, not just fluffy fantasy.

Finally the aunt is hauled off, leaving lots of tomato sauce and honey behind. These things come in handy when dealing with an alternate world we cannot see. It all comes to a head when the anger boy is confronted by Mulgarath, the vile Grinch of the forest, aka Nick Nolte. It’s made clear that this guy wants the book so he can destroy everyone and everything. How that would be possible I don’t know. It’s never fully explained; which is irritating along with a few other things. All we have to be convinced of, however, is that this guy is deadly. He goes on a rampage through the house that is pretty impressive, I must say. My problem with this guy is that he’s all flash and no substance. He is a shape shifter, so he can be anything. Yet, when he’s trying to get the book he just stays pretty much his horn-covered self. That is an example of a weakness in Spiderwick that distracted me often. Anger boy has to make some decisions about saving the book, destroying the book, saving his family, losing his family…you get the idea. It didn’t captivate me for some reason, or a few reasons.

To be fair Spiderwick is rich with lots of technical names and drawings and intricate details that make it a lot of fun. Where it falls short, it’s hard to pin-point. I liked it. I enjoyed it. It looked great, except for some iffy CGI now and then. It sounded amazing. No one was particularly great, even though the boy who played the twins did a good job of making them seem like very different people. It’s not a star type movie, even though there are lots of big names scattered throughout. There isn’t a sense of grandeur or bigness to it no matter how hard they tried. That’s not a technical term, “bigness” but I think you know what I mean.

Overall I liked Spiderwick and would recommend it to a family with any age kids. The thing is, I think this movie is pretty forgettable and ultimately a classic fantasy film stays in your mind and imagination for years and years…Spiderwick doesn’t stand out enough for me to hang around that long.

Video & Audio: (By Ascully) 8/10
I took a look at The Spiderwick Chronicles on Blu-Ray and DVD this week and as usual with Paramount releases the Blu-Ray disc is a substantial upgrade from the standard version featuring richer blacks, better color and a much improved soundtrack. Spiderwick is a 2008 release so it’s a perfect candidate for a HD version (some older movies do not translate as well as newer more pristine looking prints). Paramount are using the AVC codec to display a beautiful 1080P image with a average bit rate of 32mbps and a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel soundtrack on the Blu-Ray version.

I really enjoyed Spiderwick while its not a showcase movie for your home theatre system, its a great little movie if you have kids or are a big kid at heart. The Blu-ray looks great but doesn’t feature much in the way of extra content over the DVD so I cant really recommend one over the other in terms of content. Of course if your a video or audiophile the choice is obvious.

Value: 4/10
I don’t have kids, but if I did and they were between the ages of 3-9, I would buy this movie and let them watch it to their hearts’ content. It would still be pricey at around 30 bucks, but it’s cheaper than taking them out to the movies. This is assuming that if I did have kids I would have 7 or 8 of the little buggers. Since I don’t have kids, but I think some adults would enjoy this film somewhat, I say rent it and leave it at that. It’s not a keeper, not a classic, just a good bit of fun and then move on.

Overall Score 7/10