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An old fashioned family adventure with a good balance of drama and fun
on 1 September 2008
The Spiderwick Chronicles is one of those films that ticks all the right boxes for a traditional family adventure movie. It tells the story of a family who relocate to a spooky mansion in the middle of nowhere (as you do), then start experiencing very strange goings on both within the house and outside it. Things start to go weird when one of the sons finds an old book written by their great Uncle, who mysteriously disappeared many years ago, and is the former owner of the mansion. The book documents the existence of fairies, goblins, ogres and many other mythical creatures, explaining that they are completely invisible to humans and only make themselves visible when they want to. But as soon as this book is found, suddenly these mythical creatures start waging a mini-war against the family, desperately trying to steal the book from them. Fortunately not all the creatures are malevolent and one, a little goblin type creature called Thimbletack the Brownie, helps them in their quest to stop the book falling into evil hands.
The story is very simple and leaves you in no doubt as to who are the bad guys and who are the good guys, there's no shades of grey. The fact that this good vs. evil battle is not on a grand scale and is instead confined just to the family house and the surrounding area gives a more earthly and believable feel to it. As the family try and think of ways to outwit the creatures, they discover more and more about this magical world they have discovered. Just as significantly, they also start to piece together the strange circumstances surrounding their Uncle's disappearance, and start to make sense of this whole bizarre situation.
The special effects are excellent with all the weird and wonderful creatures superbly rendered in CGI. The effects, however, are never over the top and intrusive, letting the storyline take the lead. As well as the genuine sense of wonder that this film creates, there's also an engaging subplot involving the family's own inner turmoil resulting from the Father's separation from the Mother. Ironically, the discovery of this mythical world unites the family and helps them confront and overcome their own emotional problems. So all in all, this film is a very well made family adventure that has something to offer both kids and adults.