movies: the spiderwick chronicles

the spiderwick chronicles - their world is closer than you thinkI'm sure that the people that write and publish children's fantasy books look at the day that Harry Potter became highly popular and commercial as some sort of High Holy Day... because with the enthusiastic interest in all things fantastical aimed at the children's market, suddenly a whole range of things suddenly became viable film projects...

Be it the first Narnia movie (and I saw the trailer for the second one tonight... wowy wow wow!), Eragon, Arthur and the Invisibles, Bridge to Terabithia, The Seeker, The Golden Compass or tonight's movie of choice, The Spiderwick Chronicles... movies based on children's fantasy books seem to have been fairly hot for a while now.

And sometimes they get it right, and sometimes they get it wrong... and while I can't say how well Spiderwick stacks up against the books, since I haven't read them, it was a pretty good movie.

But since it's five books of indeterminate length, and they managed to cram it into a 107 minute movie, I'm guessing some stuff was probably glossed over, skipped, trimmed or altered along the way. The movie certainly moves along at a cracking pace... you don't really get a chance to catch your breath, and they're off from one thing to the next at sometimes supersonic speed... which isn't necessarily bad... it just makes for a fast paced movie.

Freddie Highmore continues to impress the hell out of me... he's pretty much impressed me in everything I've seen him in so far... and he continues in the same vein with this movie. Doubly so in this case because he actually plays twins... and he plays them as such totally individual characters that with the exception of maybe two or three scenes (mostly where both twins appear on screen in the same shot or cross into each other's space), you actually forget that the twins are being played by the same actor. I will say that his accent was perhaps a little wobbly at the beginning of the movie (so much so that at one point I did wonder if they'd had somebody dub his voice), but you get used to that fairly quickly.

I was also very pleased to see Mary-Louise Parker playing the mother... I just love MLP... The West Wing, Weeds... okay, that's really all I've seen her in... but I still think she's great... and it just kinda made sense to have her as the mother in this... I don't know why... maybe because I've seen a lot of her playing a mom in Weeds, but it worked for me, even though she does what all parental figures do in movies of this kind... get out of the way so that the kids can have their adventures...

One thing, casting wise, that did bother me was having Martin Short as the voice of Thimbletack, one of the CGI characters... it's not that he didn't do a good job, but his voice is so instantly recognisable (plus the fact that I'd watched Treasure Planet in the last week or so, and the voice seemed to be quite similar in both characters) it kind of threw me out of the moment a little. As I remember a particular voice actor saying at some point (although I can't remember who), a lot the time the "celebrity voices" just do themselves, they can't do character voices, so you're not getting as good a performance that you might get if you hired a professional voice actor. Having said that though, I had no idea that the main bad guy had been played by Nick Nolte until I saw the credits at the end.

While we're on the subject of the CGI work, for the most part it wasn't too bad... there were a couple of places where it just seemed a little "fuzzy", but I'm not sure if that was deliberate (part of the plot to do with looking through a stone with the hole in it) or not. And there actually were a couple of really beautiful scenes (the flower fairies springs to mind).

So all in all it wasn't a bad movie... the plot was kinda speedy, but interesting... the acting was quite good... the CGI didn't suck...

It's certainly not the very best of the Children's Fantasy genre, but it's nowhere near the worst of the bunch either. Somewhere in the top third I'd say...

yani's rating: 3 goblins out of 5

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