The best-selling series of books about children who find their mysterious old house surrounded by magical creatures has been turned into a visually sumptuous treat for fans of fantasy and imagination.
Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) plays twins Jared and Simon Grace, who with their sister Mallory (Sara Bolger of In America) and mother (Mary-Louise Parker) move into a spooky old mansion that once belonged to their great-uncle. Mallory and Simon have accepted the move but Jared is furious about their parents’ split and unhappy about the new home.
Jared discovers a book that has been hidden in a trunk and sealed up with a warning note — which he immediately disregards. He opens it up to find that it is….great-great-uncle Arthur Spiderwick’s field guide to magical creatures, a kind of encyclopedia with all of their habitats and powers. An evil ogre named Mulgarath (voice of Nick Nolte) wants that guide so that he can assume power over all of the magical and non-magical world.
Gorgeous cinematography from Caleb Deschanel (The Black Stallion) and wonderfully intricate production design from James D. Bissell create a believably magical world of dusty tomes and toothy goblins. The story gently intertwines the modern-day conflicts faced by the children of a dissolving marriage with the challenges of the fantasy world, and the committed performances by David Straitharn as Spiderwick and Joan Plowright as his daughter are as important in making the magical characters real as the superb CGI effects that bring the books’ illustrations to life.
Parents should know that this movie has some scary monsters with big teeth. Children are in peril and there are some injuries, plus a lot of monster carnage. There is a reference to suicide and an apparent stabbing of a parent. There are some tense family confrontations and some audience members may be disturbed by the references to infidelity and divorce. Characters use brief bad language.
Families who see this movie should talk about the people who enjoy cataloging nature and categorizable items. How were each child’s skills and knowledge important in fighting the creatures?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The NeverEnding Story and Labyrinth. And they will enjoy the books by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi.