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|The Spiderwick Chronicles|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mark Waters|
|Produced by||Mark Canton
|Screenplay by||Karey Kirkpatrick
|Based on||The Spiderwick Chronicles
by Tony DiTerlizzi and
|Music by||James Horner|
|Edited by||Michael Kahn|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$162.8 million|
The Spiderwick Chronicles is a 2008 American fantasy adventure film based on the bestselling book series of the same name by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi. It was directed by Mark Waters and stars Freddie Highmore, Sarah Bolger, Mary-Louise Parker, Martin Short, Nick Nolte, and Seth Rogen. Set in the Spiderwick Estate in New England, it follows the adventures of Jared Grace and his family as they discover a field guide to fairies while battling goblins, mole trolls, and other magical creatures.
Produced by Nickelodeon Movies and distributed by Paramount Pictures, it was released on February 14, 2008, earning $162.8 million against its $90 million budget. The Spiderwick Chronicles received generally favorable reviews from critics, with Highmore's dual performance being singled out for praise. The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 24, 2008 in the United States.
Recently divorced Helen Grace (Mary-Louise Parker) moves into the Spiderwick Estate in the woods with her children when it is given to her by her elderly aunt Lucinda (Joan Plowright), though identical twins Jared and Simon (Freddie Highmore) and their older sister Mallory (Sarah Bolger) do not want to move from New York. When Jared uncovers a dumbwaiter system behind a wall, he finds a monogrammed key and discovers the study of the late owner of the estate, Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn). Jared then uses the key to open a chest. In it, he finds Spiderwick's field guide to fairies; although an attached note warns him not to read it, he does so anyway. When Jared explains about his discovery on the existence of magical creatures, Helen and Mallory don't believe him.
Soon after, Jared meets a brownie named Thimbletack (Martin Short), who explains that magical creatures are normally invisible, but can reveal themselves at will. He tells Jared about a protective circle that Arthur Spiderwick placed around the house and gives him a stone with a hole through which he can see fairies.
A shapeshifting ogre named Mulgarath (Nick Nolte) wants the field guide for himself so he can rule over all fairy-kind. He sends his goblins, led by Redcap (an uncredited Ron Perlman) the pompous Goblin General, to obtain it and they kidnap Simon, mistaking him for Jared. Meanwhile, Jared meets Hogsqueal (Seth Rogen), a hobgoblin and bitter enemy of Mulgarath because Mulgarath killed his entire family. Hogsqueal gives Jared the ability to see fairies without the aid of the stone by spitting in his eyes. Mulgarath lets Simon go and berates Redcap for failing his master. Jared finds Simon and both fight over the book, which is spotted by the goblins. Together, the twins flee to the house, though Simon is injured when one bites his leg. Mallory is then attacked by the goblins, but manages to kill several using her fencing skills, making her finally realize that Jared is right. Inside, Thimbletack informs them that Mulgarath will kill all humans and fairies who oppose him if he gets the book.
They resolve to destroy the book by cremating it in a fire, but the flames do not harm it due to a protective spell placed upon it. With no other options, the children decide to visit their great-aunt Lucinda, now in a psychiatric hospital, for advice. While Simon distracts the goblins, Mallory and Jared manage to reach a tunnel under the estate. They are pursued by a mole troll and only narrowly escape it when it is struck by an oncoming vehicle. Lucinda tells them that they need to find Arthur Spiderwick and have him destroy the book. However, Arthur is being held captive by Sylphs, a type of fairie. Suddenly, Mulgarath's goblins attack them and steal several pages from the book before they are driven off. In the woods, Mulgarath violently berates Redcap for not bringing all of the book, as most of the information in the stolen pages were useless, but he is pleased by when he discovers that one of them has information that tells them how to break the protective circle by moonrise. Mulgarath and Redcap prepare to make the potion for the upcoming night. Meanwhile, Helen, who drives Jared and Mallory home, doesn't believe them on what's going on and accuses them of using that as an excuse for wanting to go back to New York. Jared then gets in a heated argument with her on why his father left her because of her not listening and starts yelling. Once home, Jared tells Helen he hates her and doesn't want to live with her. Later, Hogsqueal warns Jared, Simon, and Mallory about Mulgarath's plan and gives Simon and Mallory the ability to see fairies. Jared then tries to call his father, but Mallory tells him he has moved in with another woman and will not return to them as he promised, bringing Jared to tears.
Jared, Simon, and Mallory use the book to summon Arthur Spiderwick's pet, a griffin, which takes them to the realm of the Sylphs. There they meet Arthur, who has not aged but is also unaware of the time he has spent there. The children ask him to destroy the book only to find that Thimbletack had switched the pages. He also informs them that the Sylphs won't allow them to leave as they'll be held captive like he is, but helps them escape by distracting them. Once home, they try to convince Helen of the imminent threat of the goblins and the existence of magical creatures. At first, Helen refuses to listen until Thimbletack appears and they show her the goblins outside, finally shattering her disbelief and making her agree to help stop the attack. At this time, the goblins have finished spreading the potion, which successfully breaks the circle when the moon rises. Jared, Simon, Mallory, and Helen arm themselves with steel knives and home-made tomato sauce/salt bombs prepared by Simon earlier. The family successfully fend off the attacking goblins, though the house suffers considerable damage in the process. When they are forced into the kitchen by Mulgarath's arrival, they place all of their bombs into the oven, detonating them and killing all of the goblins, including Redcap.
Richard (Andrew McCarthy) enters the house and tells Jared that he came to apologize. Jared, realizing that it is not his father, stabs him in the stomach, revealing him to be Mulgarath in disguise. Jared escapes with the book through the dumbwaiter while Mulgarath gives pursuit in snake form and injures Thimbletack. On the roof, Jared throws the book into the air; Mulgarath transforms into a raven and catches it, but he is snatched and eaten by Hogsqueal, avenging his family and the scattered pages fall on the ground. Jared then climbs down the roof and he and Helen reconcile for their arguments earlier and for the latter to apologize for not believing him. Hogsqueal and the Graces pick up the scattered pages of the Field Guide.
The Graces bring Lucinda back to the house, showing her the repairs being made to the house in the aftermath of the goblin attack and reintroducing her to Thimbletack, who is alive. Suddenly, the Sylphs appear, bringing Arthur, as he was allowed to visit his home since the book was now safe. He cannot remain outside of the fairie realm, or he will turn to dust. Lucinda asks to be taken with him instead; the Sylphs transform her back into her six-year-old self and spirit the two away as the Graces watch and then resume their normal lives with Thimbletack, Hogsqueal, and the Griffin.
In an interview, Sarah Bolger said that filming took 4–5 months. She said that she "was [in front of] the blue screen like 24 hours a day", and for the most part, she was "kicking and slicing and chopping things that were nowhere near". Since Bolger had many fencing scenes, she had five weeks of intense training, and three hours with the Canadian Olympic fencing coach nearly every day.
The Spiderwick Chronicles received generally favorable reviews from critics; it was called "decent entertainment," "a work of both modest enchantment and enchanting modesty," and "modest and reasonably charming." However, it was criticized for its reliance on special effects; a reviewer for The New York Times said that the movie "feels more like a sloppy, secondhand pander" and called it "frantic with incident and hectic with computer-generated effects," and another said that "the sense of wonder and magic is lost in the shuffle." Despite some negative reviews for the film overall, Highmore was generally praised for his dual role as the twins Simon and Jared. One critic said that he "skillfully portrays two distinctive personas," another said he "[had] no trouble grasping the task at hand," and a third remarked that, "the most special effect is probably Highmore". The review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 80% of critics gave the film positive reviews with an average rating of 6.7 out of 10, based on 145 reviews, the site's critical consensus reads: "The Spiderwick Chronicles is an entertaining children's adventure, with heart and imagination to spare." Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 62 out of 100, based on 30 reviews. The film was nominated by the Visual Effects Society in the category of "Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture" but it lost to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
In its opening weekend, the film grossed an estimated $19 million in 3,847 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking #2 behind Jumper at the box office. With the opening day's gross on Thursday included, the film grossed an estimated $24.3 million on its opening weekend. This film has grossed $162.8 million worldwide.
Sierra Entertainment enlisted Stormfront Studios to develop and produce a video game adaptation of The Spiderwick Chronicles, following the general storyline of the books and film. It was released, shortly before the film's opening, on February 5, 2008 for Nintendo DS, Wii, PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 2, and rated Everyone (E10+) by the ESRB.
Freddie Highmore does a fine job in a dual role as identical twins. The talented actor skillfully portrays two distinctive personas.
Happily, Highmore has no trouble grasping the task at hand.
The most special effect is probably Highmore, who gets to sharpen up his American accent and who makes each twin, bookish Simon and bad-boy Jared, a functioning individual.
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