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The Spiderwick Chronicles (4 stars)

(PG) 95min

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The Spiderwick Chronicles

DRAMA/FAMILY/FANTASY

When newly divorced mother of three Helen Grace (Mary-Louise Parker) moves her kids to the secluded rundown Spiderwick estate, once owned by their great great uncle Spiderwick, the children are less than impressed. Twin brothers Jared and Simon (both played by Freddie Highmore) and sister Mallory (Sarah Bolger) sulk and fight around the house, but then things begin to disappear. And what are those odd noises behind the wall?

Simon starts to investigate and soon discovers his great great uncle’s notebook and with it a whole world of evil goblins, faeries and creatures of the forest. These creatures want something from this dysfunctional family and will stop at nothing to get it.

Directed by the able Mark Waters (Mean Girls, Freaky Friday) and scripted by Karey Kirkpatrick (Chicken Run), David Elf Berenbaum and polished up by writer/director John Sayles, The Spiderwick Chronicles is the kind of adaptation of a much loved children’s book that really works.

All those involved here seem to understand the major tenets of a good children’s adventure that run from the fiction of E Nesbit to that of Philip Pullman – namely that real innovation can only be achieved by combining realistic and contemporary portrayals of children with magical objects, creatures and creations. By doing this, complex ideas like the trauma of divorce, abandonment, the breakdown of the familial unit and, in the exciting final sequences, abuse and home invasion can be analysed in an interesting way. Director Waters uses all the CGI effects he can muster to good effect and the performances from all involved, including cameos by David Strathairn and Joan Plowright are pitch perfect.

General release from Fri 21 Mar.

The Spiderwick Chronicles

  • 4 stars
  • 2008
  • US
  • 95 min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Mark Waters
  • Cast: Freddie Highmore, Sarah Bolger, Mary-Louise Parker, Martin Short, Nick Nolte, David Strathairn, Joan Plowright, Seth Rogen, Andrew McCarthy

Upon moving into the dilapidated Spiderwick Estate, siblings Jared (Highmore), Simon (Highmore) and Mallory (Bulger) find a guide to a fantastical world of faeries and creatures in this adaptation of Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi's series. They must battle against Mulgarath, however, the evil shape-shifting ogre who is…

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