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The Spiderwick Chronicles (Two-Disc Field Guide Edition) - family and children's DVD review
Rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 5 stars
Actors: Freddie Highmore, Sarah Bolger, Nick Nolte, Mary-Louise Parker, Joan Plowright
Director: Mark Waters   Studio: Paramount
DVD release: 24 June 2008   Runtime: 120 min. (2 discs)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD features: Audio tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English, French, Spanish), Subtitles (English, French, Spanish), "Spiderwick: It's All True!", "It's a Spiderwick World!", Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide (optional in-movie mode), "Spiderwick: Meet the Clan!", Making Spiderwick!, The Magic of Spiderwick!, A Final Word of Advice!, Deleted Scenes, Nickelodeon TV Spots, Theatrical Trailers

If one has read the five little books, there might be a small bit of disappointment at the lack of dwarven artistry and some other favorite tidbits that aren't featured in the film. Even so, The Spiderwick Chronicles is one of the most complete and believable fantasy movies ever made. Directed by Mark Waters (Freaky Friday, Just Like Heaven), this is one of those movies that might make even the most cynical adults rethink their position on faith in the magical realm.

The movie opens with a small, broken family moving into an old family manor. In modern America, divorce is nearly the standard, and this family is feeling it. Twins Jared and Simon, with sister Mallory and their mom, are all trying to create a fresh new start. From their first night in the new home, they are distracted by odd and unexplained events. The first magical creature to be revealed is the house brownie. From there, anything goes. Jared finds a book in an old dusty chest, with a warning that this book is not to be read: Arthur Spiderwick's guide to all things magical, including faeries and goblins and sprites. Opening the forbidden book crammed full of mystical knowledge and very complete sketches sets off a chain of events that the whole family has to band together to put right.

Freddie Highmore couldn't be more ideal. His performance of each of the twins is incredible. Right down to the distinctly different facial features, he is two separate boys. Simon is the quiet one, wide eyes and high eyebrows with a soft voice. Jared is more rambunctious, angry, and it all shows in his face, stance and general mannerisms. Highmore truly turns in an excellent performance. Joan Plowright plays their Aunt Lucinda, who has been shut up in a sanitarium for years. She has a particular gift for believable reactions - in this case, to sprites and the like. David Strathairn is the man who started it all with his life's work, the Field Guide. As Arthur Spiderwick, he definitely sets forth a feel of the old ways, kind of a traditional, almost Victorian fellow. Notable voice acting from Nick Nolte to Seth Rogen and Martin Short spices up the movie and adds to its credibility.

One of the claims this movie can make is its phenomenal special effects - phenomenal simply because they don't feel like special effects. The goblins really seem to live and breaths as they jump and ooze around. The sprites flutter gracefully on the wind, but none of it feels contrived or affected. In fact, midway through the movie, all we see are the creatures and the action; it doesn't even occur to us that it is not real. The "blood" is gloopy green slime, making it not quite so scary for the younger ones. (Though the PG rating is definitely fair. the little ones will want a big hand to cling to through some parts of it!). Small details throughout make it very thorough, like the costumes. Even the names invoke feeling: Mulgarath, Thimbletack, Hogsqueal.

While the movie itself is more than enough, the special features are actually quite a lot of fun. From the in-movie field guide to magical creatures, to the story behind the story, the kids especially will enjoy the extras.

The Spiderwick Chronicles: boggarts, goblins and ogres. all in a day;s work for the Grace children, Simon, Jared and Mallory. Just make sure you bring your salt and a bottle of good honey!
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reviewed by Carolynn Evans
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