Friday, 9 October 2015
The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)
I first became aware of the Spiderwick books because they were illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi, who had done some gorgeous artwork for the 2nd edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. I didn't get around to reading the novels at the time they came out (I have since), but I did see this film when it hit theatres back in 2008.
Following her divorce, Helen Grace moves herself and her three children - Mallory (the eldest) and her identical twin brothers Simon and Jared - to the rural home owned by her aunt Lucinda Spiderwick. Lucinda now lives in assisted care, and as she has been judged mentally incapable of looking after her own affairs, Helen has control of the property.
None of the children are pleased to be leaving the city to live in a "dump that smells like old people", but Jared is particularly hostile. He blames his mother for his parents' divorce, and wants to live with his dad. Given his sullen attitude and sometimes violent outbursts, it's probably no surprise that Jared gets the blame when odd things happen in the house: items going missing, a cruel prank played on his sister, and so on.
Jared's protestations of innocence are ignored, but they are in this case sincere. He sets out to explore the house and discover what is really going on. This leads him to an old, leather-bound book in the attic. It is the work of his great aunt Lucinda's father, Arthur Spiderwick, and compiles decades of research into the magical creatures - goblins, fairies, ogres and griffins - that secretly live in the nearby woods.
Of course, "a brownie did it" isn't an explanation the rest of the family are willing to accept, but Jared's going to have to persuade them quickly, because the wicked ogre Mulgarath desires the knowledge that can be found in book, and now that it has been discovered, he will stop at nothing to claim it.
DiTerlizzi's wonderful creature designs were what initially interested me in this film, and they really shine on the screen, from the toad-like goblins to the elegant flower sprites. The human cast also does well, especially considering how much of the time they must have spent acting to empty air.
This is fine example of a family-friendly fantasy adventure. If that sort of thing is in your wheelhouse, you should check it out.