The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

(In theaters, February 2008) With the Potter series in full money-making bloom, studios are racing to cash on other children’s series. The results may often be dire (even with the best of source material, such as The Golden Compass), but Spiderwick manages to be a good-enough example of the form. As three siblings discover the secrets surrounding their new upstate New York house, they realize that there’s an invisible world out there, and that it’s not entirely friendly. Elements of classic fairy mythology are well-used, but it’s the generally unobjectionable script that holds everything together along with capable kid actors and satisfying special effects. The early few minutes aren’t particularly pleasant as the rebellious boy is shown to be well, rebellious, but he soon rises to the occasion presented by the discovery of the house’s secrets. While the plot is generally predictable (including its underwhelming ending), it’s not blatantly idiotic and even manages to hold on to a certain pleasant quality. I particularly enjoyed the sub-thematic content about books and the knowledge they represent. While this won’t become a classic, it’s going to hold up as a pleasant family film that the adults may even like.

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