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Mark Waters
Freddie Highmore, Sarah Bolger, Nick Nolte, Mary-Louise Parker, Joan Plowright, David Strathairn, Seth Rogen, Martin Short
Writing Credits:
Karey Kirkpatrick, David Berenbaum, John Sayles, Tony DiTerlizzi (books), Holly Black (books)

Their World Is Closer Than You Think.

From the beloved, best-selling series of books comes an extraordinary fantasy adventure, revealing the unseen world that exists all around us. From the moment the Grace family moves into a secluded old house peculiar things start to happen. Unable to explain the accidents and strange disappearances, the Grace children - Jared, Simon and Mallory - start to investigate and find the unbelievable truth of the Spiderwick Estate and the amazing creatures that inhabit it.

Box Office:
$90 million.
Opening Weekend
$24.740 million on 3847 screens.
Domestic Gross
71.148 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 6/24/2008

DVD One:
• “Spiderwick: It’s All True!”
• “It’s a Spiderwick World”
• “Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide” Text Feature
• Previews
DVD Two:
• “Spiderwick: Meet the Clan” 13:54
• “Making Spiderwick” Featurette 20:53
• “The Magic of Spiderwick” Featurette 14:25
• “A Final Word of Advice…” Featurette 1:51
• Four Deleted Scenes
• Nickelodeon TV Spots
• Theatrical Trailers


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Spiderwick Chronicles: Field Guide Edition (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (jUNE 16, 2008)

Prospective movie franchises based on kid-oriented novels have hit tough times of late. First 2007’s The Golden Compass underperformed, and then 2008’s The Spiderwick Chronicles failed to reach a mass audience. They grossed $74 million and $71 million, respectively, so neither bombed, but neither set the foundation for a successful franchise.

Generally dull and uninventive, I didn’t think Compass deserved more popularity, but I was interested to see if Spiderwick should have obtained greater success. The film introduces us to the Grace family, the new inhabitants of a mysterious old house. Angry about his parents’ recent split, Jared (Freddie Highmore) actively resists this move, but his older sister Mallory (Sarah Bolger) and meek twin brother Simon (Highmore again) accept it more readily.

We learn a little about the house’s dark history, as “crazy Aunt Lucinda” claimed her father Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn) was abducted by faeries. Jared dismisses this as nutty at first, but he soon learns that there’s something strange at work in the house. When he hears noises in the walls, he discovers a dumb waiter. Jared takes it to a secret room where he locates Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You, a documentation of all the monsters and amazing creatures who hide in plain sight.

Evil ogre Mulgarath (Nick Nolte) wants the book, and he kidnaps Simon to expedite that process. Jared rescues his twin but that doesn’t solve the problem. Jared and his siblings attempt to thwart Mulgarath’s wicked plans.

Chronicles comes from Nickelodeon Films, and we see that cable channel’s influence. The network made its bones with shows that exploited kids’ move for mess and goop, so the presence of many disgusting scenes shouldn’t come as a surprise. Actually, the flick wasn’t as bad as I expected given its preponderance of nasty critters, but those with a low tolerance for grossness should avoid it.

Otherwise, Chronicles offered a pleasant surprise. When I saw previews for it, I thought it looked almost wholly uninteresting, so I wasn’t all that eager to check out the DVD. Now that I’ve seen the flick, I can’t say it enchanted me, but I enjoyed it more than I anticipated.

Much of the credit goes to Highmore for his dual performances. He creates two unique personalities without resorting to cheap tics or tactics to differentiate them. Both Jared and Simon feel like natural, real characters, and Highmore helps ground the film with his fine acting.

I will admit I could live without the “broken home” side of Chronicles. That aspect of the story feels unnecessary, as it adds no emotional heft to the tale. Instead, it seems forced and occasionally sends the flick into Afterschool Special territory.

Despite that misstep, I like Chronicles. Director Mark Waters doesn’t do anything to turn Chronicles into a reinvention of the fantasy format, but he gives the flick enough oomph to succeed. The film moves briskly and offers a good mix of interesting characters and scenarios. This isn’t a tremendously creative and original affair, but it stands out as something involving and fun.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

The Spiderwick Chronicles appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film consistently offered positive visuals.

Not too many issues affected sharpness. Some wide shots tended to be a smidgen soft, but those instances were acceptably minor and infrequent. Overall, the movie appeared accurate and well-defined. No problems with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I thought edge enhancement remained absent. Source flaws also failed to materialize.

In terms of colors, Chronicles provided a slightly subdued palette. It veered toward natural tones but kept them restrained. Within its sense of design, the hues looked warm and natural. Blacks were dense and deep, while shadows seemed clear and concise. This was a satisfying transfer.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Chronicles proved to be similarly pleasing. With all its action and creatures, the soundfield boasted a number of good sequences. Various beasties cropped up from all around the spectrum, and they added good life to the flick. These created a nice sense of place and activity throughout the film.

Audio quality was also positive. Speech appeared natural and concise, without edginess or other flaws. Music sounded bright and lively, and effects worked well, too. Those elements were accurate and dynamic. Bass response came across as deep and firm. This wasn’t a killer soundtrack, but it seemed good enough for a “B+”.

Expect many extras from this “Two-Disc Field Guide Edition”. On DVD One, Spiderwick: It’s All True! presents a seven-minute and six-second featurette. We get notes from director Mark Waters as he covers the movie’s fantastical characters and concepts. This is a cutesy piece that doesn’t tell us much we can’t already figure out from the movie. It seems unnecessary to me.

It’s a Spiderwick World goes for eight minutes, 45 seconds as it features Waters, co-creator/author/executive producer Holly Black, co-creator/illustrator/executive producer Tony DiTerlizzi, the Kennedy/Marshall Company’s Kathleen Kennedy, producer/screenwriter Karey Kirkpatrick, and producer Mark Canton. “World” tells us a little about the inspirations for the novels as well as how the books made it to the screen. This is a rudimentary look at the background behind the movie, but it satisfies.

Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide can be accessed in two different ways. There’s an “In-Movie” version that allows you to check out the information as the film progresses, and there’s a separate non-interactive edition as well. I prefer the latter, as it offers the less intrusive way to obtain the details.

In the “Field Guide”, we find facts about the various magical creatures seen in the film. We learn about boggarts, brownies, sprites, goblins, hobgoblins, ogres, griffins, trolls, the Seeing Stone, and protection from magical creatures. These appear as pages from Spiderwick’s book, and they’re a fun addition.

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for the Indiana Jones films and Kung-Fu Panda. These also appear in the Previews area along with promos for Charlotte’s Web, Barnyard and Bee Movie.

With that, we head to DVD Two, where we open with three featurettes. Spiderwick: Meet the Clan goes for 13 minutes, 54 seconds and includes remarks from Waters, Kennedy, Kirkpatrick, and actors Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker, Sarah Bolger, Andrew McCarthy, Seth Rogen, and David Strathairn. The show looks at cast, characters and performances as well as some technical notes about the “twins” shots and makeup. Some of the expected “everyone was great” fluff appears here, but we find more than a few interesting notes about the actors and their work. This turns into an enjoyable piece.

Next comes the 20-minute and 53-second Making Spiderwick. It provides comments from Black, Kennedy, Waters, DiTerlizzi, Bolger, Highmore, Kirkpatrick, Parker, production designer James Bissell, director of photography Caleb Deschanel, illustrator Meinert Hansen, property master Claire Alary, creature supervisor Phil Tippett, ILM visual effects supervisor Pablo Helman, stunt coordinator Dave McKeown, composer James Horner, and special effects supervisor Michael Lantieri. The program covers sets and locations, props and various visual design choices, effects concerns, stunts, cinematography, music, and other complications. While not a particularly in-depth program, “Making” does a competent job. It examines a good mix of subjects in a satisfying manner.

The Magic of Spiderwick goes for 14 minutes, 25 seconds as it features Waters, Tippett, Helman, Tippett Studio lead animator Michael Brunet, Tippett Studio visual effects supervisor Joel Friesch, Tippett Studio CG supervisor Russell Darling, ILM visual effects supervisor Tim Alexander, ILM visual effects art director Christian Alzmann, ILM animation supervisor Tim Harrington, and ILM digital artist lead Jean Bolte. “Magic” examines character design and visual effects. Obviously it takes a technical tone, but it looks at the material in a reasonably lively manner. A lot of good notes appear in this enjoyable show.

Lastly, A Final Word of Advice… runs a mere one minute and 51 seconds. In it, Waters simply “reminds” us that everything in the movie is real, so we’d better keep an eye out for crazy critters.

Four Deleted Scenes fill a total of eight minutes, 14 seconds. These include “Mom and Jared” (1:00), “Boys in Bedroom” (2:12), “Messy Kitchen” (3:02) and “Meet Lucinda” (2:00). These offer a couple minor character bits and some additional exposition. The clips prove to be interesting but they wouldn’t have added much to the final flick.

A few ads finish the set. Nickelodeon TV Spots presents nine snippets that aired on the cable channel; they run a total of five minutes, four seconds. Most are basic promotional material, but a few unique bits with the characters make things more interesting. Two Theatrical Trailers conclude the package.

The Spiderwick Chronicles doesn’t always excel, but it entertains more than I anticipated it would. The film provides an involving fantasy world and keeps us interested. The DVD offers very good picture and audio along with a few useful extras. This is a good family flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars Number of Votes: 10
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