I saw The Spiderwick Chronicles yesterday with a theater full of kids off from school, and both they and I loved it. It's a simple story with lots of recognizable features: kids from a broken home move to a creepy old house, discover something left by a previous inhabitant and have to solve a mystery and save themselves and the world. This variation on a theme is very well put together and uses lots of unqiue features to stand out without trying too hard. Freddie Highmore plays twins, a nerdy science twin Simon, and the bad boy twin Jared. He's a British actor and his accent was good, but not quite like his sister or mother, and thus a little distracting. Otherwise, he's terrific as both twins. Jared finds the old lab in the house of his great-relative Arthur Spiderwick who wrote a field guide describing all the secrets of the fairy world. This book is being persued by Malgarath (played occaisonally by Nick Nolte, he morphs into a huge monster too) who wants it to gain all the power and rule the world. He sends his minions to attack the house which is protected by a circle of toadstools through which only humans can pass. There are good goblins/fairies/creatures too - Thimbletack helps protect the book (voiced by Martin Short perfectly, in picture), and Hogsqueal is a Hobgoblin who helps the kids "see" the fairies. Hosqueal is voiced by Seth Rogan (from Knocked Up) and provides all kinds of light-hearted humor as he attempts to aid the kids, but gets distracted by birds constantly. The climax is perfectly done with some humor, some suspense and quick wrap-up with a non-traditional explosion (spaghetti sauce can destroy the creatures). The monsters are fun, but it's easy to see the good vs the bad just from their appearance, but unlike other fantastical stories (The Dark Crystal) these goblins aren't scary, just evil. Overall, I really liked the movie, it has a lot of humor, a lot of fun mystery explaining a new fantastical world, and really good acting from all the characters. Definitely 4 of 5 stars.
Addendum: Also, I forgot to mention the music. Usually in these kiddie-branded movies the music is sweet and treacly and manipulative. This movie felt more fresh and fun rather than sinister from music alone. The music complements the movie really well.
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