Spiderwick Tackles Deep Themes, But Isn’t Believable


“Spiderwick”, directed by Mark Waters and starring Freddie Highmore, is being released Feb. 14, 2008.

“The Spiderwick Chronicles” is the kind of film in which you leave logic at the door, along with your coat and hat. It’s a movie about invisible creatures, magical enchantments and implausible concoctions.

In “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” three children move into an old creepy house along with their mom. Soon after, the house starts spilling secrets, and one of the children, Jared (Freddie Highmore), discovers an ancient diary. The book reveals that the world is inhabited by invisible creatures, both good and evil. Supposedly, if the evil king goblin were to get his hands on the book, it would usher in a new reign of tyranny upon the earth. Of course, no one believes Jared about all this nonsense.

This is not a whimsical tale of happy unicorns and dancing flowers. It’s a tale dripping with the blood of orc-like creatures and frightening atmosphere To say the least, it’s a dark film.

The movie is dark in its quest for the splattering of goblin gore, but it happens to be even darker in the themes it explores. The family has suffered a massive blow, and the children are surviving a painful divorce. It’s serious stuff, and the movie doesn’t take this material lightly. The family dynamic is the richest part of the film, as if the goblin warring really doesn’t matter at all. The family has already warred with itself and lost.

The movie starts off strongly by focusing fiercely on the shattered family and exploring the therapeutic techniques used by each member to cope with the pain. However, when the plot ventures into absurdity, something misfires. The adventure portions are well executed, but the movie fails at interweaving the action with the dark family themes. Movies like “Bridge to Terabithia” or the quiet masterpiece “My Neighbor Totoro,” succeeded much better, and while those films balanced both the deep themes with the child fantasy, “Spiderwick” is second-rate.

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