Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Spiderwick Chronicles: The Cliff Notes Edition

The Spiderwick Chronicles
Release: 02/14/2008
Rated PG
1 hour, 37 minutes

Matinee ($$$)

Mary-Louise Parker (Saved!) in the matriarchal role of Helen, oldest daughter Mallory, played by Sarah Bolger, and twins Simon and Jared, played by Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland), comprise the The Pissed Family Grace. This high-strung family has left their NYC home to take roost in their looney aunt's creepy old home. After a botched attempt at dinner, a "rat" in the wall spurs the anger-riddled Jared into a destructive spree that reveals a hidden dumbwaiter. Left to clean up his mess, Jared uncovers a secret room with a secret chest that contains a secret book known as The Spiderwick Chronicles. Ignoring the neatly penned warning, Jared breaks the seal, awakening the ogre Mulgarath who sends his goblin armies to recover the book. Jared learns from his new friend Thimbletack, voiced by Martin Short (Three Amigos!), that he must protect the Chronicles at all costs lest Mulgarath obtain the book and use it to destroy the world.

I'd like to point out that my introductory paragraph, while lengthy, is at least as detailed, if not more than, The Spiderwick Chronicles. The mystery and magic of this fantastical world described by Arthur Spiderwick, portrayed by David Strathairn (Blue Car), is glossed over although it had the potential to flourish. Audiences are barraged by goblins, a pesky brownie-boggart and sylphs, but we aren't given a sense of connection to their magical world. The film's time is split between talking about the crazy aunt and her oddly stocked pantry (hint, hint: this will be important later) and reinforcing the point that the story's hero, Jared, really comes off as a prick. You get the feeling the rest of the family feels he is nothing more than the afterbirth that slithered out of his mother's filth, and they'd all be much happier had they put him in a glass jar to be displayed on the mantelpiece.

Dirty Undies
Being a kid's film you shouldn't expect any excessive language, sex and violence...and that's where you'd be wrong. While devoid of the first two, Spiderwick has to be the most visually brutal kid's film in my recent memory. Goblins gouge long bleeding gashes into their victims. Goblins and trolls are slaughtered by the dozens, with eyes plucked from their sockets and bodies collapsing into puddles of ooze. Mulgarath, voiced by Nick Nolte (Hulk), is scary as hell, and that's before he morphs from his unkempt, just-arrested-for-a-DWI human form into his ogre persona. Personally, I enjoyed the violence; I just wonder how many kids may piss their pants or stop reading because of this.

The Money Shot
The Spiderwick Chronicles teaches kids an important lesson about absentee fathers: if your dad leaves home to go live with another woman, he's probably an ogre and should be stabbed the first chance you get. If your dad just pops out for a pack of cigs for, I don't know, eighty or so years, don't hold it against him. He may just show up when you're on your deathbed to whisk you away to a magical place where novel adaptations make no sense.

Large Association of Movie Blogs


  1. The Money Shot was hilarious. Nice job.

    I too thought this was pretty violent for a kids movie, and I too liked that aspect. Not to glorify violence, but just because so many films take the easy way out and/or treat their audience with kid gloves (no pun intended). Nice to see one where some shit goes down.

    I was a bit shocked to see Nolte. At least he sounded better here than he did in Paris, Je t'aime.

  2. Yeah, I couldn't let that father-ogre-son dynamic go for some reason. Glad I put it to good comedic use.

    Dang it! I still haven't had time to watch Paris, Je t'aime! I hadn't planned on seeing Nolte or hearing Seth Rogen in Spiderwick, but it was a nice surprise.