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Hola all. Massawyrm here. Remember the first time you saw that really great Bridge to Terabithia trailer? When those of you like me, unfamiliar with the book, dreamed of this wonderful children's fantasy story about a young boy who discovers a magical land of fantasy? In his backyard? The same way many of us did when we were children? Well, Terabithia failed to deliver on the promise of its trailer. Love it or not, it had nothing at all to do with discovering a magical land filled with goblins, fairies and ogres. Instead, that movie you dreamt of – that movie is called The Spiderwick Chronicles. And it absolutely delivers. One of the main problems plaguing fantasy these days is none other than Harry Potter himself. While it was partly the wild, unprecedented success of the Potter franchise that led to the current fantasy explosion, it is also something that hangs around the neck of every new franchise like a dead albatross. Is it the next Harry Potter? asks every magazine and blog this side of the globe. And much like it was 30 years ago with Star Wars, every studio out there is trying to find their own way to duplicate the magic. There certainly have been a lot of attempts. New Line recently gave it a go with The Golden Compass. Fox tried twice in a year with the abysmal Eragon and then the even more dreadful The Seeker: The Dark is Rising. If it's a book series aimed at kids, then no doubt a studio has the rights and has Potter on the mind. What works about The Spiderwick Chronicles is that it decidedly feels like its own thing. Unlike every other post-Potter family fantasy work, this film feels like it was created and conceived by someone who expunged all thoughts of Potter from their head. It feels complete. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. It never feels like part one of a God knows how many picture series. The Spiderwick Chronicles is an exploration into a universe all its own – an inventive, wonderful world which draws from classic folklore and weaves old myths and tales into a brand new ones. And I'll be damned if it doesn't have those classic 80's sensibilities from back when it was okay to scare kids. When it was okay for kids to defend themselves against vicious creatures that wanted them dead. When the kids knew exactly what the hell was going on and the adults just didn't believe them. That's The Spiderwick Chronicles. It is an adventure film, one that never requires them to go any further than their backyard because their backyard is dangerous enough. And wonderful enough. And beautiful enough. And when this film isn't busy giving kids the fuel for hundreds of hours of imagination in their own backyards, it is playing all the right notes to woo fantasy fans of any age. This is a world were even the most beautiful and friendly of fairy can be dangerous, even deadly. And what makes this book so important to the story is that it tells you everything you need to know to navigate the politics of this strange world. In the hands of the right person, this book can open untold possibilities of friendships and adventures. But in the wrong hands, it could lead to a veritable holocaust of all things magical. And it is that dark and somewhat ominous possibility that drives this film and creates such an enthralling piece of fantastical fiction. But what I love most about this film is that it never falls into the trap of the passive hero. This is what drove me so nuts about Stardust and why a few of the Potter films didn't sit so well with me. For some reason most fantasy films aimed at kids involve the kid getting into bad situations in which adults or magical creatures always show up and fix things. Hell, it isn't until the third Harry Potter story until Harry actually brings about a happy ending on his own. Previously it was either his magical melting touch or a hat full of goodies dropped off by Dumbledore that ultimately saved Harry. But here, it is entirely the kids. On their own. They get themselves into trouble and they find ways, whether through cleverness or moxie, to get themselves out. In fact, if this film reminded me of anything, it is more in line with The Goonies than it is anything else. A little bit of horror mixed with a little bit of adventure mixed with a whole lot of fantasy. The result is one of the more satisfying of the big budget fantasy offerings in recent years. The performances in this are pretty awesome. This Freddie Highmore kid is going places. He had me convinced for the first 20 minutes of the film that he had an older brother that they'd gotten for the film. He plays a pair of twins, but does so giving each character their own distinct mannerisms and speech patterns. It is the type of nuanced performance you'd expect out of a thirty year old rather than someone his age. And it tickles me to no end that of all the many monstrous forms that the Ogre Mulgrath assumes, it is the minute he spends as Nick Nolte that scares the kids out of the theatre. Say what you will, but Nolte takes that single minute and crafts one of the scariest kids performances…probably ever. Whether or not that was acting, well, that's up for debate. Seth Rogen is hilarious every second his hobgoblin is on screen and I was dumbstruck when I saw Martin Short did the voice of Thimbletack – it is unlike anything you've ever heard out of him. Is it perfect? Naw. There's a few moments that feel a bit too exposition-y, but never quite to the level of The Golden Compass and its white dwarf-like density. Just a few, sporadic moments of "Quick, the book said that these things do this if we do that!" Nothing unforgivable, especially since the rest of the story unfurls in such an elegant, deliberate fashion. But in context, everything works. This film comes Highly Recommend for anyone looking for a good family or fantasy film, especially those looking for something to hold them over until Prince Caspian or Half Blood Prince. This is sweet enough, endearing enough, and most importantly, good enough to find its name mentioned among those series. Without a doubt one of the more satisfying things you are bound to see this season. Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. Massawyrm
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Readers Talkback
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  • Jan. 30, 2008, 7:41 a.m. CST

    Sounds good

    by kwisatzhaderach

    If it has classic 80s sensibilities i'm there. Plus the new Jones trailer as well...

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 7:47 a.m. CST

    What about the effects?

    by Nice Marmot

    Can't remember if I saw the trailer in a theater, on T.V., or online, but the effects looked pretty damn cartoonish.

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 7:47 a.m. CST

    Great review

    by DonnieDorko

    and it sounds like an interesting movie.

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 8:20 a.m. CST

    Neverending Story baby!!

    by FlickaPoo

    ...Oh, I hated that wolf...when gay gay Atreyu stabbed him I nearly fainted with relief...

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 9:03 a.m. CST

    Plus, it's got the INDIANA JONES trailer attached.

    by brokentusk

    Should have ended your review with that, cause that alone will get people to check the movie out. Great review, Massa.

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 9:03 a.m. CST


    by kbass

    As long as some kid doesn't die a horrible, senseless, tragic death that really doesn't move the story forward and takes place only to justify the selfish and inane ego of some Hollywood flake...I'm in!

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 9:05 a.m. CST


    by LegoKenobi

    seth rogen plays a hobgoblin? damn you, massa, now i want to see this movie!

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 9:09 a.m. CST


    by brokentusk

    When I was a kid that wolf freaked the SHIT out of me. I had a VHS copy of the film, I remember this one time I went to put it in the video machine and pressed play, on to see that fucking wolf on the screen and I almost shit my pants! The worst part is that this was last week! Heh, actually I was like five at the time. Funnily enough, I borrowed the DVD from a friend a few months back, it really doesn't hold up so well now but the film is still awesome.

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 9:23 a.m. CST

    Great to hear

    by Frankenbastard

    I wanted to take the kid to see this and i trust your reviews, thanks man.

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 10:21 a.m. CST

    wonderful review Massa

    by Kloipy

    I'm actually excited for this now. Just like your review said, it's like what they did with the superhero thing, just constantly bringing new shit out to bring in the cash, but it sounds like this one is unique and good on it's own. I'll give it a look

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 10:22 a.m. CST

    Brokentusk vs. the Wolf...

    by FlickaPoo

    ...I watched it again recently too...I thought the wolf was OK in a Jim Henson puppetry/animatronic sort of way. Old puppets hold up far better for me than old computer effects, maybe I'm just old. I had the soundtrack too, and sometimes I had to skip the wolf chase part of the score...especially after dark.

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 10:32 a.m. CST

    I wish they still made movies like Neverending Story

    by Kloipy

    God, I love that movie. It's fucking scary (the oracle/wolf), sad (artex in the swamps of sadness/"big strong hands"), and just all out awesome adventure. Now it's only, let's be friends with everyone! Kids can't get hurt!

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 10:42 a.m. CST

    A Soider(wick) crawls up MASSAWYRMS cheeks...and he LOVE IT!!

    by idrinkyourmilkshake

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 10:56 a.m. CST

    Damnit, Wrym, i want a write up

    by Lloyd Bonafide the Korean War Veteran

    about the UWE BOLL showdown. Thats history, man. Turn this place into a gossip rag. we dont care. What we care about is you (good) "gouging evil from its shell." damn Uwe michael boll.

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 11:06 a.m. CST


    by MacTard420

    I was surely pegging this movie as the next fantasy bore. Massa has me intrigued now! Did you happen to see it on IMAX, Massa?

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 11:32 a.m. CST


    by Philvis

    Back in '94 I went to the Bavarian Film studios where they filmed The Neverending Story. They still had the sets up for it and even had the Falkor flying dog thingy. They had a blue screen set up so you could get on him and look like you were in the movie. Pretty neat stuff indeed. My wife and I saw the trailer for the Spiderwick Chronicles and it definitely hooked her. I think we will invest some hard earned cash and go see it, especially after reading this positive review.

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 11:44 a.m. CST

    Indy Trailer

    by Kentucky Colonel

    Is this a teaser trailer, following the omnipresent red line through the clouds...or a real honest-to-goodness trailer? <p> Inquiring minds want to know!

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 12:02 p.m. CST

    Very good review, Wyrm!

    by Rakafraker

    It touched all the points I was curious about, and gave good examples without giving any storylines away (some reviewers on this site could learn a thing or 2 about that). <p>Thanks to this review, we will be seeing this, even though I wasn't sure at first if we'd see it in the theatre because of the deluge of family fantasy coming out (after BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA, which was OK, we weren't so quick to hit the theatre), but this one sounds better than I would have thought from how the trailer felt.

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 2:37 p.m. CST

    saw this today

    by Freakemovie

    It was a good, fun flick. Maybe Massa raves a little too much, but the bottom line is that they do a good job with it.

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 3:03 p.m. CST

    Philvis...Bavarian Film studios...

    by FlickaPoo

    ...would that be in Germany? Sounds like fun...

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 8:33 p.m. CST


    by Abominable Snowcone

    Yeah, exactly. Massa's review made it sound like Neverending Story with Atreyu and the 'Great Nothing.' That was a good one.

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 8:35 p.m. CST


    by Abominable Snowcone

    Didja also see the Indy trailer. Please describe it. No wait--let me pull down my pants first. <p> Okay, go.

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 10:03 p.m. CST


    by Messyjoe

    Ok this report like Harry's is positive. And yes Taribithia was crap and I want to see a magical land and creatures in the whole movie not just 30 seconds. If well done, kids love this stuff. Mark the well done part!

  • Jan. 31, 2008, 12:33 a.m. CST

    Yeah, it so absolutely delivers...

    by Tourist

    ...On the promise of yet more fucking payola. Why the fuck do you guys choose such shitty projects to whore yourselves out for. Pick something that the readership might even be a little interested in. Can't fucking Empire suck this flicks cock or something, while you guys get tag teamed by studios pimping out product more suited to teenage-adult males instead of retarded children?

  • Jan. 31, 2008, 12:33 p.m. CST

    Anyone who dislikes Terabithia...

    by Frijole

    because either 1) they think that a tragic occurence in the movie was pointless and/ or the product of studio buffonery or 2) because it turned out to be a young adult character drama and not an actual fantasy is... a total fucking nitwit.

  • Jan. 31, 2008, 1:11 p.m. CST


    by Alex Mack

    How come they make her wear a really skin-tight red shirt in the movie? I mean, it's obvious she's well developed in the... chest region *coff* It's as if the filmakers wanted to show off her body on purpose.

  • Jan. 31, 2008, 2:08 p.m. CST

    Passive Heroes?

    by Son of Hades

    See also: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Those kids do fuck all to bring about the downfall of the bad guys, and <b>then they get made Kings and Queens of Narnia?</b> Where's the fairness in that?