Posted: 02/22/2008


The Spiderwick Chronicles


by Rick Villalobos

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The Spiderwick Chronicles is Hollywood’s new attempt to woo you, yes, you—the reluctant spectator and fan of fairy tales and fantasy epics that you first read in books a long time ago. It was a time of magic, an era fabricated by the evildoers at the Walt Disney Company, who brought to life a termite-infested boy, a narcoleptic beauty, and seven lonely dwarfs who didn’t fool anybody. Sadly, that magic is gone and replaced by a greater force—a film graduate with an malnourished imagination and an advanced knowledge of hydroponics. Lock the neophyte in a room with the latest CGI technology and wait for the pungent smoke to lurch from underneath the doorway. Ah yes, the pothead’s smoke signal, a clear sign that a film worthy of any psychedelic fit or convulsion is being made.

Fortunately, The Spiderwick Chronicles is a tale that remembers its literary roots. It is a narrative that brings back what was once lost: great story telling written for the child in all of us. Director Mark Waters creates the unthinkable, a film adaptation that closely parallels the source material. Nickelodeon Movies finally got it right.

Twins Jared and Simon Grace and their sister, Mallory, move into an old estate. A place abandoned eighty years ago by their great uncle Arthur Spiderwick, an unruly man with a great secret. Sealed in a wooden chest is a book. It contains the truth about a world inhabited by fairies and goblins. It is this manuscript that the evil Mulgarath, an ogre with an appetite for power, will stop at nothing to obtain. Jared, Simon and Mallory are now left with a terrible burden—to protect the book from falling into the wrong hands.

After every great adventure there is an abrupt end. The magic is gone once again. The credits scroll down the screen and the lights in the theatre are lit. Although it is finally over, nothing is more precious than that moment of clarity that follows: I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico. This film will incline anyone to remember what it was like being a kid again. Do you remember? That child who read and was thrilled to go to movies to see those characters come to life. The magic is back, but for how long? I guess we are just going to have to wait for the sequel.

Rick Villalobos is a writer and film critic in Chicago.

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