The Spiderwick Chronicles (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
October 25, 2009 by Dennis Amith
“Thrilling, dark and enjoyable…it may not be for young children but definitely a family film that just looks and sounds great on Blu-ray!”
TITLE: The Spiderwick Chronicles
DURATION: 101 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English 5.1 Dolby True HD. French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish
COMPANY: Paramount/Nickelodeon Movies
RATED: PG (For Scary Creature Action and Violence, Peril and Some Thematic Elements)
Release Date: May 13, 2008
Based on the books by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
Directed by Mark Waters
Screenplay by Karey Kirkpatrick, David Berenbaum and John Sayles
Executive Producer: Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy
Co-Executive Produer: Holly Black, Toni DiTerlizi
Producer: Mark Canton, Larry J. Franco, Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Julia Pistor
Co-Producer: Steve Barnett, Julie Kane Ritsch
Associate Producer: Silenn Thomas, Cheryl A. Tkach
Music by James Horner
Cinematography by Caleb Deschanel
Edited by Michael Kahn
Casting by Marci Liroff
Production Design by James D. Bissell
Costume Design by Odette Gadoury, Joanna Johnston
Freddie Highmore as Jared Grace/Simon Grace
Mary-Louise Parker as Helen Grace
Nick Nolte as Mulgarath (human form 1)
Sarah Bolger as Mallory Grace
Andrew McCarthy as Richard Grace
Joan Plowright as Aunt Lucinda Spiderwick
David Strathairn as Arthur Spiderwick
Seth Rogen as the voice of Hogsqueal
Martin Short as the voice of Thimbletack
Jordy Benattar as Young Lucinda
From the beloved, best-selling series of books comes an extraordinary fantasy adventure, revealing the unseen world that exists all around us. From the moment the Grace family moves into a secluded old house peculiar things start to happen. Unable to explain the accidents and strange disappearances, the Grace children, Jared, Simon and Mallory start to investigate and find the unbelievable truth of the Spiderwick Estate and the amazing creatures that inhabit it.
Before writers Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi worked on the book “The Field Guide” (2003) and way before they created their eight books based on “The Spiderwick Chronicles”, both writers have said that the story is based on an actual events that were told to them by a family in Maine.
After receiving letters from three young children about their experiences of discovering these magical creatures, it became an inspiration to write about their experiences and create a magical story based on their experiences via “The Spiderwick Chronicles”.
With the popularity of the children’s books, the first five books (“The Field Guide, “The Seeing Stone”, “Lucinda’s Secret”, “The Ironwood Tree” and “The Wrath of Mulgarath”) were then adapted into a film released in theaters in 2008 and has grossed over $162 million worldwide and for the most part, receiving favorable reviews from reviewers.
The film kicks off with Arthur Spiderwick (played by David Strathairn, “The Uninvited”, “We Are Marshall”, “Good Night and Good Luck”), a man who has given his life into discovering these magical creatures that exist in our reality but are not seen by mere human eyes. He wrote a book titled “The Field Guide” which details the magical creatures that he has discovered and learned about. But an evil ogre named Mulgarath is after his book in order to kill off these magical creatures and to absolutely rule the world. We see Arthur writing a warning note but then sealing the book and placing it into a chest. We hear all these growls nearby and the film then switches to present time.
We see the Grace family which includes mother Helen Grace (played by Mary-Louise Parker, “Weeds”, “The West Wing”, “Angels in America”, “Fried Green Tomatoes”) and her daughter Mallory (played by Sarah Bolger, “The Tudors”, “Premonition”) and her twin sons Jared and Simon (both played by Freddie Highmore, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “The Gold Compass”, “Astro Boy”). Helen recently separated from her husband and her son Jared is having a hard time adjusting to it and has major, anger issues. Jared also blames his mother for his father not being with them and acts as if he hates her.
Because they have no money, the two move from New York City to a smaller area at the old, abandoned home one owned by their great uncle Arthur Spiderwick. A very old home that seems to be inhabited and the daughter of Arthur Spiderwick, Lucinda Spiderwick (older version of Lucinda played by Joan Plowright, “Sophie”, “Avalon”, “The Diary of Anne Frank) was send to a mental hospital because she claimed seeing creatures. But the home is very old and for some reason there are plenty of honey and tomato sauce being stored, plus salt on all windows.
Upon moving to the area, Jared hears noises in the forest area and also within the home. On the first night, while having another exchange with his mother about their father not being there and not coming to visit him, after hearing noises in the walls, he begins making holes with a broom. When his sister Mallory hears the noise, she hits the wall which exposes a small lift and all the mess from the destruction, Jared is left to pick up the mess while his siblings get used to their new home and sleep.
When Jared uses the lift, he discovers Arthur Spiderwick’s study and when he looks into the chest, he discovers a book which is “The Field Guide” which has a warning to not open. Of course, Jared opens it and starts reading about these magical creatures. Immediately, weird things happen in the house. Someone has taken his pet mice and moved them around, someone tied his sister’s hair on the headboard of her bed (which Jared is blamed for) but things change when Jared discovers a creature known named Thimbletack (voiced by Martin Short, “Saturday Night Live”, “SCTV”, “Three Amigos”, “Innerspace”) is upset that Jared has opened the book and now fears that the ogre, Mulgarath will go after him and his family for the book. And that the book must be kept within a boundary (which surrounds the house and the ogre and his evil followers can not enter).
But Jared who still has a hard time believing anything knows that Thimbletack is correct with his warnings when he sees his brother Simon who is outside of the boundary being kidnapped by something invisible. When Jared goes after his brother to rescue him, he sees that he is being held captive by Mulgarath and are wanting the book. Jared meets and frees Hogsqueal (voiced by Seth Rogen, “Knocked Up”, “Superbad”, “Pineapple Express) who also gives him a warning about Mulgarath, the book and then gives him the ability to see these magical creatures (by coughing up flem on their eyes).
When Simon agrees to give the book to Mulgarath, Mulgarath allows him to leave but then tells his evil creatures that once they get the book, to kill Simon and his family. Hearing that, Jared runs quickly to get his brother and both run towards the house. Their sister Mallory who thinks Jared is making up things is then attacked by the monsters and with all three now knowing the monsters exist and they want the book but knowing that the book in Mulgarath’s hands can lead to their early deaths, they must figure out what to do next before they all get killed.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“The Spiderwick Chronicles” is a film presented in 1080p High Definition and with many of the scenes featured during the day and night, one thing that is constantly emphasized throughout the film are its blacks. Blacks are well done and outdoor scenes are quite vibrant and colorful. We see the scenes of Fall with the leaves on the ground but for the most part, the film utilizes a lot of CG. And overall, the CG is where most of the detail can be seen. But in some ways, the film has its share of darkness and for the most part, I think it was the cinematographer’s goal to capture the home being surrounded by darkness and light during indoor scenes are kept minimal. But overall, I felt that “The Spiderwick Chronicles” dark nature was fitting for the film and definitely looked much better than its DVD counterpart.
As for the audio, the film is presented in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and in French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. I felt the film was quite immersive as dialogue and music was quite clear during the front and center channels. But the roars of the monsters and the overall sounds being carried through the surround channels as it pans from left to right or right to left was pretty awesome. Great use of the subwoofer producing really nice LFE during the monstrous sounds as a troll going after Jared and Mallory or the action sequences towards the end of the film. There are plenty of action sequences in “The Spiderwick Chronicles” and for the most part, audio quality is top notch!
Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
“The Spiderwick Chronicles” feature the following special features:
- Spiderwick: It’s All True! – (7:02) – Director Mark Waters introduces us to the creatures of Spiderwick.
- It’s a Spiderwick World – (8:44) Writers Holly Black and Toni DiTerlizzi explain how the Spiderwick Chronicles came to be and also seeing their books being turned into a movie. Also, crew talk about their involvement in the film.
- Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide – Using your remote, you can view the Field Guide and learn more about the creatures featured in the film.
- Field Guide In-Movie Mode – While watching the film, you can see some interesting information shown on the bottom in regards to the characters in the film.
- Spiderwick: Meet the Clan! – (13:54) Director Mark Waters talks about casting of the talent in the film and the talents talk about being part of the film. Also, how the talents Freddie Highmore is from England and Sarah Bolger is from Ireland. So, despite being an American made film, the two were cast for the part and speaking without their accents.
- The Magic of Spiderwick! – (20:53) We learn about the set and production design of the film. From the creation of the house, the trees, the tunnels and more.
- A Final Word of Advice! – (1:51) – Director Mark Waters final message.
- Deleted Scenes: Four deleted scenes which include: Mom & Jared, Boys in Bedroom, Messy Kitchen and Meet Lucinda.
- Nickelodeon TV Spots – (5:04) A Total of nine TV spots which include: A Guide to Seeing The Spiderwick Chronicles, Cinema Spy, Confessional – Jared, Confessional – Mallory, Field Guide – Tomato Sauce, Field Guide – Seeing Stone, Field Guide – Creatures, What if you had a seeing stone? and The Split Spot.
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:04 each) Featuring two trailers Good vs. Evil and Secrets.
I have to admit that I had no knowledge of “The Spiderwick Chronicles” previously to watching the films and having watched the film, I truly enjoyed the magical aspects of the film and how the film was actually quite dark considering it was based on a children’s book. I actually tried to watch this film with my six-year-old son who insisted that since it was Nickelodeon movie, he wanted to watch it. And 15-minutes into the film, he was literally scared and couldn’t watch anymore.
But for me, I had a fun time and partly it’s because of the Blu-ray’s immersive soundtrack. This film did a great job making you hear the monsters all around you and creating that dark atmosphere throughout the film. “The Spiderwick Chronicles” definitely does a great job in utilizing sound and those with a good home theater setup will enjoy this film’s lossless soundtrack.
And for the film, it was great to see so many talent involved. Seeing Mary-Louise Parker, Nick Nolte, Andrew McCarthy, Joan Plowright, David Strathairn in the film and also knowing that Seth Rogen and Martin Short providing the voices was pretty cool. But you also have to give credit to English actor Freddie Highmore and Irish actress Sarah Bolger who did a great job in playing American kids. Highmore especially did a fantastic job in having us believe that perhaps Jared and Simon were actually twins. He managed to pull of two different characters, despite the two being twin brothers.
If I had any negatives with the film, it’s when the film tried to use Jared’s anger towards his parent’s split and you suddenly go back and forth from the action to his family woes. In just seemed a bit unusual to see things disrupted in that manner but fortunately, it happens only once or twice in the film. And since the film is based on five books, one can only imagine how much storyline was left out from the actual film and how different or how faithful the film’s adaptation was to the original books.
But overall, being a guy who has no knowledge of the books, it was pretty fun to have a film that was adventurous and dark. Sure, there are a lot of these adventure/magical type of films that are being adapted into a film these days but I definitely found “The Spiderwick Chronicles” to be quite entertaining and fun. And you do get quite a number of special features included in the Blu-ray as well.
If you are looking for an adventure film to add to your Blu-ray collection and you enjoyed films such as “The Chronicles of Narnia” or even the Harry Potter films, definitely give “The Spiderwick Chronicles” a chance.
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