The Spiderwick Chronicles (review)

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Bad things happen when you leave the city. Like you discover that the creepy old house you inherited is surrounded by goblins enthralled to an evil ogre, the house itself is home to a goofy brownie who hulks out into a boggart when he gets angry, and more. They’ve hardly moved into their new home far from their old one in New York City when twins Jared and Simon Grace (Freddie Highmore [August Rush] in a dual role, and, man, is this kid amazing) and their sister, Mallory (Sarah Bolger: In America), find themselves in deep monster doo-doo when the ogre Mulgarath (the voice of Nick Nolte: Over the Hedge) decides that he wants the guide to Faerie written by their ancestor Arthur Spiderwick (and secreted inside the house, which used to be his) so he can rule the magical realm with an iron fist, or whatever it is that ogres typically want. The big goblin battle toward the end of the film leaves no doubt that this is a Nickelodeon production — remember all the slime on the network’s show You Can’t Do That on Television? — but this charming movie, based on the series of children’s books of the same name, avoids the pitfalls the usual plague kids movies. Instead of toilet humor, we have matters of honor and bravery, trust and love… plus lots of humorous and thrilling fantasy action that it’s impossible not to get caught up in. One of the more original fantasy movies of the recent glut, this is a sweet delight that’s not afraid to venture into the sour — of unleashed adolescent anger, of parents who fall down on the job — in order to keep it real. Or as real as a movie costarring a booger-eating hobgoblin can be.

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