The Spiderwick Chronicles Reviews
The movie, based on the best-selling series by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, tells parallel tales of fathers who abandon their children, but it glosses over the trauma of those sagas in favor of special-effects-laden escapism.
Happily, Highmore has no trouble grasping the task at hand. As both the thoughtful Simon and the brash Jared, he transports himself into this literal faerie tale with such convincing enthusiasm, he turns us into believers, too.
It has plentiful whimsy, a big enough heart and Joan Plowright in one fine scene, burbling magnificently. It treats its archetypes with all due seriousness: Good must engage evil in a final stand. And fatherless children must try to save the world.
Part of what keeps this from being just another children's fantasy is director Mark Waters' sensitivity to the way the enchanted elements deepen the emotional journey.
The Spiderwick Chronicles, while not without its virtues (including a genuinely sweet ending), goes too far on the frightening front, especially for a young audience.
A work of both modest enchantment and enchanting modesty, grounded in a classically Spielbergian realm where childlike wonderment crosses paths with the tough realities of young adulthood.
The characters lack shadings -- Nolte's ogre is loud but uninteresting -- and the tone of the fantasy world isn't witty, like Harry Potter's, or satirical, like Lemony Snicket's. It's all just silly.