Ain't It Cool News (
Movie News

The Beef takes a liking to SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES... that's either really creepy or a good sign for the movie!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I missed this screening due to my Sundancing, but I'm happy to hear that it's shaping up to be a decent movie. I love Phil Tippett, but the trailers weren't doing much for me. I'll be happy if this is a fun fantasy film, which it appears to be. Here's THE BEEF with his thoughts:

Fellas, Thanks for the spur of the moment invite to the screening. Seriously, no joke. Writing about a children's film is a challenging task. Pointing out all of the nit-picky shortcomings in the film sort of make one seem too, adult. That's not to say a children's film shouldn't make complete sense, and shouldn't be acted reasonably well by its younger actors, but when you point to those things you put yourself out there to be writing about the parts of the film that the movie's target audience doesn't care about, at all. Ultimately, all that matters is whether or not the film is fun, and if it is then that's something that an adult will share with their kid. If the adult is having fun then more than likely the child is just as likely to have fun. That being said, despite some of the less than stellar opening, pre-fantasy takeover scenes this movie does generally deliver the fun. We enter the film with a tiny introduction to the world we're going to be a part of. It's a fantasy world inhabited by vast numbers of creatively imagined creatures, some good natured and some bad. A world of goblins, fairies, sprites, mini-hogs, and other countless fantastically conceived creatures. The person subjecting us to this world is Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn), the author of a book that details the many fantastic elements of this world that co-exists with our own. The danger that Mr. Spiderwick did not anticipate when he created the book is that should the knowledge of the different spells and charms used by the many good creatures to protect them from the bad fall into the hands of the almighty ogre Mulgrath (Nick Nolte), Mulgrath would then have the power to annihilate all creatures of that world, and ours, with nothing capable of stopping him. Arthur Spiderwick, realizing the importance of keeping the book hidden and protected from Mulgrath, put a protective spell around his house, and hid the book to be kept safe from all of the evil forces after the information that it contains. 80 years later the Grace family, distant relatives of Arthur Spiderwick, move in to the old house after fleeing their home in New York. The family consists of the mother Helen Grace (Mary-Louise Parker), Mallory (Sarah Bolger), and twin brothers Jared and Simon (both played by Freddie Highmore). It's made immediately apparent that Jared is a problem child, and is having issues coping with something that appears to have put the family on emotionally hard times. Jared's overly-curious, and rebelious nature lead to him finding the book, and reopening all of the dangers that Arthur Spiderwick tried desperately to shield the world from. The next few days prove to then be a venture into this parallel world that exists right outside the Grace front door, and the Grace family becomes acquainted to the dangerous goblins seeking the book that they now possess. The major weak point of the movie comes at the expense of our main characters, but luckily it doesn't last long. The chemistry between the siblings is awkward, similar to that of how step-brothers and sisters would act, and it takes a while to get over Freddie Highmore playing two kids that are polar opposites. When he's on screen as just one of the brothers he does fine. It's when he's split-screening and trying to act as both boys speaking to each other that his line delivery is a bit to be desired. Thankfully, these gawky moments are found only during the first moments of the film when we're introduced to the family. When the action begins then it just becomes a matter of reaction by the actors, and that's where the kids begin to flourish and the movie really takes off. When we begin to start dealing with the different inhabitants of the fantasy world the movie gets infinitely more interesting than the family drama that we have to sit through initially, and definitely more entertaining. The friendly creatures that try and help the kids on their mission (voiced by Martin Short and Seth Rogen) add some great comical moments and really become the highlight of the movie, despite the wonderful work by the more experienced actors, especially Mary-Louise Parker as the emotionally-stressed mother. The voice work by Rogen and Short blend quite nicely with the animation work on their respective creatures, and the animation itself is as good as anything you'd find from the recent children-adventure films. That animation work also applies to the frog-like goblins that are after the book, and the eventual entrance of the all-powerful ogre Mulgrath, who the very young audience members might find a little too frightening to continue watching. He's an intimidating figure when in his natural form, and arguably just as frightening in his human form because he's played by Nick Nolte. However, even though the colorful creatures are the highlight and the contributions of the older actors are excellent, the real gem of the group is Sarah Bolger as Mallorie. Those unfamiliar with Bolger's name may recognize her as the oldest daughter from the wonderful Jim Sheridan drama IN AMERICA, where she put in a performance beyond her years. In this film it's apparent that she's certainly capable of being part of the uncommon breed of actors that can fulfill the promise they showed to the world as a young child. She's remained comfortable in front of the camera, and appears to have a gift for portraying the mature older sibling. It could be because she actually is a mature older sibling. Stated earlier, though, none of this matters. The only thing kids care about is whether or not they'll have a good time. They will. When the adventure begins the movie continues to get more and more thrilling, and the family drama even begins to get stronger. The only thing adults will care about is whether or not they'll regret having to labor through this while their kids have a good time. They won't. It's definitely not the greatest thing an adult is going to see, but the humor is present, the acting is better than most children's movies, the story is interesting even though some of the plot points are kind of stretched and borrowed from other films, the fantasy elements are imaginative, and again the thrills are aplenty when things get moving. Essentially, kids will go ga-ga if they're not easily frightened, this does have Nick Nolte in it after all, and the parents will leave satisfied that they didn't waste eight dollars on their own ticket. Thanks again, The Beef

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus
    + Expand All
  • Jan. 27, 2008, 1:49 p.m. CST


    by BetaRayBill07

    Another movie I just don't care about!!!

  • Jan. 27, 2008, 1:51 p.m. CST

    Wow- First it is.

    by BetaRayBill07

    Haven't been first in many moons. Now 2008 is complete for me.

  • Jan. 27, 2008, 1:54 p.m. CST

    I have your sequel titles all ready to go.....

    by BetaRayBill07

    Spiderwick Chronicles 2- One More Day and Spiderwick Chronicles 3- Brand New Day. I know that was awful.....sue me.

  • Jan. 27, 2008, 1:56 p.m. CST

    SECOND !

    by tritium

    I've never been 2nd, so I will take it. :)

  • Jan. 27, 2008, 5:25 p.m. CST


    by ludmir88


  • Jan. 27, 2008, 6:52 p.m. CST

    Spider Wick. Sounds like some new candle

    by skywalkerfamily

    at the candle store.

  • Jan. 27, 2008, 9:34 p.m. CST

    hooray for terrifying villains!

    by freydis

    children's villains should be the most terrifying, elemental characters in all of storytelling.

  • Jan. 28, 2008, 5:44 a.m. CST

    The Beef....

    by JiveTalker

    As in, Shia? Or as in, Where's The?

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 2:24 p.m. CST

    Prepackaged pablum

    by Sepulchrave

    'All kids care about is whether they'll have a good time'. What a horrible, shallow thing to say; the best books I read as a child had a mystic, almost religious effect on the way I saw the world around me; particularly the countryside ( I'm Irish and the ruins, woods and stone forts seemed to hide the unseen wold that I read about in Susan Cooper, Alan Garner and Tolkien). I suppose kids who grew up in multiplexes, drugstores, malls and suburbs were deprived of this. That's sad. Incredibly sad. And then they grow up into the kind of adult who manufactures this plasticky 'world beyond your imagination Dreamworks rubbish. And think that all kids want and need is stimulation, more and more empty stimulation. Fuck that

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 4:11 p.m. CST


    by the beef

    How does me saying "a good time" have anything to do with a kid being deprived of some otherworldly experience? "A good time" is subjective, and if a kid wants to go in to the movie with the mindset that they're going to be transported to some other world for an-hour-and-a-half then the movie does offer that. What I meant when I said that they don't care about the other stuff and just want to have a good time, it's in regards to most kids probably not minding some of the awkward Freddie Highmore moments, or the contributions by the adults and Bolger, the impressive visual effects, or some of the other things that an adult would notice that a kid may not. Those are things that I don't think a kid is going to pay attention to in order to have "a good time". Some may, but I think most don't. After all, this is a fantasy/adventure film so I don't think it's too off-base to think that kids are going to want an actual adventure.

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 1:25 a.m. CST

    You can see from the briefest glance at the trailer

    by Sepulchrave

    what kind of a good time this film offers. Same old. same old. Same Peter Pan palette, same dismal sub-Henson creatures, same instantly recognizable stars, same twinkly score of wonderment, same lack of emotion, all derived from another kid's book phenomenon whose sole raison d'etre is Harry Potter's enormous success. An adaptation straight from the furnaces of pure cynicism. A good time.

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 9:07 a.m. CST

    So by your rationale

    by the beef

    In order for something to be good it must be different from everything, in all aspects. It must have unknown actors (Freddie Highmore is the only cast member that has done any children's film work before, aside from Martin Short whose voice you won't recognize), must use different colors (no clue what you're referring to in regards to Peter Pan's palette, because of all the children's stories it shares the least with Pan), and must advertise the emotional aspects of the story to get kids to go see it, because that's the higher road to take over showing them something exciting. In terms of the film being emotionless I don't know if you mean there's no drama in the story, or if there was no apparent love or effort put into the final product, which I'm curious how you can notice from a 1 minute trailer. I'm not saying these things are bad, but to use this as a basis for something just to be "good" may be setting your standards too high, especially for a kids film. Pretty much everything has been done before so why fault a film, or book series, for doing something less original but at least doing it well? Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather see a good copycat than nothing at all. I may even go so far as to say I'd rather see a good copycat than a bad original. But, that's just me. If you wish to hold everything to a higher standard then more power to you, in the meantime I'll be passing the time watching good things while I wait for the great things.

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 2:59 p.m. CST

    That over-rich Spielberg night-sky blue and gold

    by Sepulchrave

    You know what I mean; the colour scheme for 'magical' that every Hollywood kid's film except Harry Potter 3,4 and 5 used.