Based on the book series by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, “The Spiderwick Chronicles” is one more fantasy movie on the premise that the world around us is not exactly what it looks to be.
Jared Grace, his twin brother Simon and elder sister Mallory have shifted with their mother to their great-aunt’s house. Young Jared is unhappy about his parents’ divorce and his anger gets him in trouble.
In the dilapidated house, Jared discovers a hidden library belonging to their great-grandfather Arthur Spiderwick. There are many strange things in the library, the strangest being a book with warning not to open the book. Of course, as any 9-year-old would do, Jared opens and starts reading “Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to The Fantastical World around You“. But the warning on the book may just be literally correct, and somebody tying Mallory’s hair to the headboard at night may be the least of their worries.
Now Jared and his reluctant siblings may have to get help from and fight the creatures in and around the house. They have to meet their (great-)aunt Lucinda (who is in an “institution”) and uncover a secret. They have only until full moon before something terrible tries to kill them to get the book.
Although the three Grace children are the focus of the story in the books, the movie puts Jared right in the middle. Jared loves his father, and is unhappy about moving away from him. He thinks their father will be coming to get them (at least him). But it is his pranks and outbursts which get him mostly in trouble (the only reason he is not expelled from his old school is that they are going to move anyway). At the same time, he is resourceful, inquisitive and adventurous, and really cares about his family.
By contrast, his twin Simon is a pet-lover (don’t mind the size or ferocity of the animal). By his own admission, he doesn’t “do conflict”, but often gets in the middle of things because of Jared. Mallory is a typical teenager, just one who is a very good fencer. She is often found with a foil in her hand, and bossing around her younger siblings if possible.
The Grace children are helped and hindered by their household helpful brownie Thimbletack, who turns into a malevolent boggart at the drop of a hat (or mention of the book). On the other hand is Hogsqueal the “hob”goblin (remember, he is not a goblin), whose perhaps only loyalty is to himself, and only wish is to get good birds for dinner.
Having a flying fantasy creature in movie is an established way to get some great aerial shots, not to mention some brilliant acrobatics in the movie. If Harry Potter franchise has Buckbeak the hippogriff (and a dragon in future, maybe), the Grace children find the ride on Byron the griffin. With these allies, they have to defeat the fierce and cunning ogre, Mulgarath, who will do anything and take any shape to get the book.
With 5 small-sized books (each around 100 pages in length), I had thought that there wouldn’t be any major differences. I mean, I didn’t really expect the Spiderwick estate to be as dilapidated as the books made it to be. But I wasn’t ready for some changes, like in Byron’s story. Even Thimbletack is much more prosaic than his rhyming self in the books, while some creatures are completely missing. This is perhaps because the movie has a span of a day or two against several weeks it takes for the story to unfold in the books. Also, many important changes seem to be made to make the movie more kid-friendly, though Mulgarath is more than enough to scare them good.
All in all, it is a fairly good, kid-friendly fantasy movie, with a feel-good ending. If you are a fantasy fan, I would recommend it.
Quote of The Day:
You don’t see us, now you do, but only if we want you to.
– Thimbletack, the house brownie