Movie Review: the Spiderwick Chronicles

After reading the entire series of the Spiderwick Chronicles books, I decided to see what the movie was like and how it compared to the books.

“From the moment the Grace family moves into a secluded old house, strange things start to happen. As Jared investigates, he discovers Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide and the unbelievable truth of the Spiderwisk Estate: a secret world with fantastical creatures hides within our own! Now Jared, his sister and his twin brother are pulled into an unforgettable adventure as they try to protect the secrets of the book. Based on the beloved series of best-selling books and filled with non-stop action, The Spiderwick Chronicles is ‘a terrific fantasy for all ages!'”

As with most movies that share names with books, watching this movie makes me appreciate even more that the books and movies that share a name need to be treated as completely separate entities.

I think one of the things that I liked about the books that was not dealt with in the movies was how close Jared, Simon, and Mallory actually were. The characters in the books are a lot more cohesive and the Grace children work a lot better as a team than this movie portrays. In the books, Simon helps solve the riddles and Mallory is protective and defensive of her younger brothers. Jared struggles with anger issues, but that’s not the sole focus of the reasons he behaves the way he does. Right in the beginning of the movie, Simon says he doesn’t do violence because he’s a pacifist, which is kind of true, but he never says it in the books. Jared often lashes out and yells at his family, while Mallory seems more like a normal high school teenager and less like a protective, super fencer.

Some parts of the basic storyline have been drastically altered, such as the Grace children finding and saving Hoqssqueal and Byron themselves. Instead, it seems like Thimbletack and Hoqssqueal are both straight-up good guys, but in the books, they are both motivated by things only they understand. And Thimbletack is a lot smarter in the books than in the movie. In fact, the books are a lot smarter than the movie, with puzzles and family stressed rather than the action stressed in the movie. The books had distinctive and different characters and all of those characters were named and given special skills, such as Simon’s care for animals, Mallory’s fencing, and Jared’s desire to do better.

So other than comparing this movie repeatedly to the books that share the same name, I’m now going to talk about the movie in general. It’s understandably short at 101 minutes, but most of that is likely because of the target audience. When I picked this movie up from the library, it was shelved under “Young Juvenile DVD” in a separate room for small humans elsewhere inside the library. Which is to say, I am probably not the intended target audience for this particular movie and because I’m not the intended target audience, I need to look at this movie from the way a small human or a parent of a small human would look at this movie.

The characters in the movie were designed to be relatable to small humans adjusting to changes in their personal lives, especially a family break-up and a big move from one location to another, very different location. Jared’s emotions and his anger, which he demonstrates by randomly beating the car, is seen as a symptom of his dissatisfaction with the situation between his father and his mother. I’m not positive that Mallory or Simon are even remotely named in the movie, which is a little disheartening because they both bring so much to the story and demonstrate how family and teamwork truly should work in the books. I’d say that character development was a little bit lacking throughout the movie.

The setting in this movie was a little bit limited, in that the vast majority of the movie took place in or near the house, a small section of the town, and a little bit of the forest. Even with such a limited series of settings, the settings were done very well with a great deal of imagination and intricate details.

As with many things, the books are more detailed and in-depth than the movie was and I would recommend the books for younger readers or for anyone interested in a unique way of looking at the faery world. As for the movie, I’m going to have to give this movie a very low two on my rating scale. I don’t know that I would watch it again, even if someone else was watching it or wanted to watch it.

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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