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Movie Review: Spiderwick Chronicles

IGN reviews The Spiderwick Chronicles (in theaters now).

Because of the sheer volume of movies that I’ve seen in 2008, I’ve recently gotten into the habit of “pitching” movies to my friends and colleagues — you know, that long-established Hollywood process of telling someone what a movie is by comparing it to previous ones. For example, Cloverfield is Godzilla meets The Blair Witch Project and Fool’s Gold is How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days meets National Treasure. By that same token, The Spiderwick Chronicles is a sanitized version of Evil Dead 2 meets Gremlins — a scrappy and sometimes scary supernatural tale that features a dangerous book and some even more dangerous critters who will stop at nothing to get it. Directed with competence if not flair by Mark Waters (Mean Girls) from the book series by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, the film is a fun adolescent-themed adventure. But it seems a little too short and superficial to attract more than the source material’s already established fan base, if not also the duty-bound pre-teen audience that attends every movie made for its demographic.

The ubiquitous Freddie Highmore (The Golden Compass, August Rush) plays Jared and Simon Grace, twin brothers who recently relocated with their frazzled mom, Helen (Mary-Louise Parker), and pushy older sister, Mallory, (Sarah Bolger) to a secluded old mansion once owned by their great-great-uncle, Arthur Spiderwick. Almost immediately strange things start happening around the estate and Jared, who is adjusting uneasily to his parents’ recent separation, immerses himself in investigating what’s going on behind the walls, in a secret dumbwaiter, and up in Arthur’s study. After uncovering a mysterious book penned by his relative, he begins to study its pages, in the process discovering an entire, unseen universe populated by magical creatures.

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