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The Spiderwick Chronicles - Blu-ray DVD / family and children's DVD review
THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES Rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 1/2 stars
Actors: Freddie Highmore, Sarah Bolger, Nick Nolte, Mary-Louise Parker, Joan Plowright
Director: Mark Waters   Studio: Paramount Pictures
DVD release: 24 June 2008   Runtime: 101 minutes (1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
DVD features: Audio tracks (English, French, Spanish- 5.1 Dolby Digital, 5.1 Dolby TrueHD), Subtitles (English, French, Portugese, Spanish), Featurettes (Spiderwick: It's All True!; It's a Spiderwick World!, Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide, Spiderwick: Meet the Clan!, Making Spiderwick!, The Magic of Spiderwick!, A Final Word of Advice!), Additional Scenes, TV Spots, Trailers (Good v. Evil; Secrets)

I've always loved stories about hidden worlds, old estates with secrets hidden for ages only to be discovered by curious, exploring children. The Spiderwick Chronicles promises a hidden world of wonder and dread, and delivers same.

This fractured portion of the Grace family - Jared and his twin brother, Simon (both played by Freddie Highmore), their older sister, Mallory (Sarah Bolger), and their mother, Helen (Mary-Louise Parker) - have moved to an old Victorian house in the wake of a divorce. Jared is moody, temperamental and prone to violent outbursts, obviously having trouble with the breakup; Simon is a pacifist, more introverted than his brother. Mallory is interested in - and very good at - fencing. Helen is just trying to keep things together with her family, her new job and her new life.

Jared one day discovers Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You. Written by Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn) eighty years before, the book describes much about the unseen world of faeries, brownies, boggarts, ogres, goblins, hobgoblins, and still more amazing creatures. Opening the book wakes up an evil in the woods surrounding the house, and bringing the field guide outside the house alerts the baddies (ogre and goblins) to its presence - it could give the ogre Mulgarath (Nick Nolte) the power to destroy or control all the others in the faerie world. The children spend most of the film fighting off evil bullfrog-like goblins and hoping to undo the bad they've done. They get some help from Thimbletack (Martin Short), a brownie who turns into a mischievous boggart when enraged. He's about five-inches tall, but very helpful when he's not in boggart form.

Together the children are strong, and having a common enemy helps to bring them closer.

The Spiderwick Chronicles is an excellent film and fun for the whole family, though I think it may be a bit strong for younger children. Some of the violence is a little extreme, though it is mostly directed toward the fantastical creatures. The parts I worried most about were the elements of hostility between Helen and Jared.

The Blu-ray release features an excellent on-screen field guide giving more insight on the creatures revealed as the film goes along. Some of this information contains a link to pages in Spiderwick's field guide if the viewer wants to dig deeper.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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