The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008) - 2-Disc Field Guide Edition

Genre(s): Family / Fantasy
Paramount || PG - 101 minutes - $39.99 || June 24, 2008
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2008-06-26


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Mark Waters
Writer(s): Tony DiTerlizzi & Holly Black (books); Karey Kirkpatrick and David Berenbaum and John Sayles (screenplay)
Cast: Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louis Parker, Nick Nolte, Joan Plowright, Seth Rogen (voice), Martin Short (voice), Ron Perlman (voice)


Theatrical Release Date: February 14, 2008


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Spiderwick: It's All True!
  • It's a Spiderwick World
  • Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide
  • Filed Guide: 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


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

With the popular rise of The Chronicles of Narnia and, most likely Harry Potter prior, the fantasy genre has arisen once again... with a vengeance. Possibly just about every creature-fantasy based novel has been snatched up by the studios. The latest of these is called The Spiderwick Chronicles, based on a series of books, five in total (“The Field Guide”, “The Seeing Stone”, “Lucinda’s Secret”, “The Ironwood Tree” and “The Wrath of Mulgarath”).

Arthur Spiderwick (Strathairn; The Bourne Ultimatum) is a reclusive scientist living in the 1928 Northeast United States. He has spent his life collecting artifacts of a world mankind never knew nor have seen. Various species of creatures that live in the woods, and inside Spiderwick’s home, that fear a monster called Mulgarath (voice of Nolte, who also appears for a short time in human form), a shape shifter who wants nothing more than power. Arthur Spiderwick collected information on these creatures in a book known as a “Field Guide” that contains all their secrets and Mulgarath wants that book so he may wipe them all out. These creatures – Brownies, Hobgoblins, Sprites to name a few – are rightfully fearful of this book and they magically take Arthur away (although why they didn’t make sure he had the book with him is beyond me), leaving his daughter, Lucinda, behind.

80 years later the Grace Family have come to live at the Spiderwick Estate, unaware of the magical power that may be in and outside. Jared is a trouble-making pre-teen while his twin Simon (both played by Highmore; Finding Neverland) is, as he says early on, a passive person; teenager Mallory (Bolger; Stormbreaker) is a skilled fencer and the more vocal authority of the kids; and mom Helen (Parker) is newly separated from her husband (McCarthy) and starting a new job and a new life. During the course of checking out the Estate, Jared finds Arthur’s old office and that book. Ignoring an ominous note attached stating NOT to open or read the book; Jared does so anyway unleashing a beacon call of sorts to the Goblins and Mulgarath. Now time is of the essence to keep the book away and protect all the Sprites, Brownies, etc., etc.

I found Spiderwick to be a fun little family movie. Sure, the plot really isn’t that complicated and the creatures not all too original and has been seen in plenty of other mediums, but something about this one caught my eye. I think the simplicity of it all is refreshing. Rather than having to sit through two plus hours of a bunch fantasy jabber and inane storylines, here we have a story that could be told in less than 100 minutes.

Director Mark Waters, much like Andrew Adamson with the Narnia movies, paints a vivid picture of a new world but also adds some style especially during the 1920s scenes with David Strathairn. Even if the story isn’t in-depth, the visuals certainly are. His color palette isn’t memorable exactly, but Waters shows growth out of previous ventures like Mean Girls.

Also impressive was star and rising actor Freddie Highmore. Unlike other movie child stars (*cough* Haley Joel Osment *cough*), Highmore seems to have more consistency and maybe more talent. I doubt Spiderwick Chronicles will make his highlight reel, but I was impressed that he was able to play two parts so seamlessly and nonchalant.

The Spiderwick Chronicles may not have an epic feel that Chronicles of Narnia or even The Golden Compass possessed, but it’s probably much more fun than either of those. With a runtime under 100-minutes, this is a fast paced fantasy that the entire family can watch together and enjoy.

The film also features the voices of Martin Short, Seth Rogen and Ron Perlman and also has a small credited cameo by Andrew McCarthy.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

As now is the norm, 1-disc and 2-disc versions are available; this one covers the “2-Disc Field Guide Edition”. Although missing a commentary track, there’s a decent amount of features, some worthless others not, that those who enjoyed the film will find interesting.

DISC 1:
Spiderwick: It’s All True! (7:05) – Director Waters sits in front of a green screen with images from the film and shots of fairies and the other creatures and tells the viewers how real these things are. Adults can skip this one.

It’s a Spiderwick World! (8:45) – This short featurette is basically a short “making-of” where we get to see the origins of the books to how it got made into a movie. They examine each mystical creature and the process of bringing them to life.

Rounding out disc 1 are Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide, a text-based feature where you can find out more information about these creatures, and Field Guide: In-Movie Mode just allows you to get to this feature while watching the movie.

DISC 2:
Spiderwick: Meet the Clan! (13:54) introduces us to the cast of the Spiderwick Chronicles from the lovely Sarah Bolger and the beautiful and underutilized Mary Louis Parker to Freddie Highmore’s dual role, David Strathairn and the voice talents of Seth Rogen.

Making Spiderwick! (20:53) is a semi-extensive “making-of” featurette that really covers everything about the production from the story, set design and the score by James Horner.

The Magic of Spiderwick! (14:24) is kind of a continuation but in post production as animators at ILM and other CGI studios work on the creatures who try to blend real world elements.

Other features on this disc are A Final Word of Advice! (0:40) which, from what I could tell, just the same thing as the “It’s All True!” just more condensed (I only clocked the actual feature, the rest are DVD credits); there’s also a selection of deleted scenes (8:15) and several Nickelodeon TV Spots and theatrical trailers, 11 between them.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

The Spiderwick Chronicles is presented in anamorphic widescreen with its original AR of 2.35. The picture looks very good with some colors coming across the smallish screen quite nicely, though it also doesn’t “pop” out either. It’s a solid transfer from Paramount and should be more than acceptable.

The film comes with a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (along with French and Spanish 5.1). The audio isn’t all that impressive on my system, though it’s suitable for most people. I expected to get more oomph from this soundtrack but its fine overall.



.::OVERALL::.

With a solid set of extras and a fun little family flick, The Spiderwick Chronicles would be a nice pickup. It’s not as in-depth in terms of story compared to The Chronicles of Narnia or The Golden Compass, but on some level, I’d say I enjoyed this one a little more if not just for the shorter run time. Rather than sit through two plus hours watching a bunch of CGI characters and humans fight, instead it’s only 100 minutes (less without credits) and makes for entertainment the entire family can watch together.