the spiderwick chronicles

Parents are always looking for the latest and greatest thing to entertain their kids. So, it’s no wonder that Hollywood’s family movie market is absolutely booming. Whenever a PG- or G-rated film hits theaters, it’s almost certain to be in the top 10 at the box-office. However, family films tend to rely too much on cheap Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) and unfunny jokes to appeal to children. After watching its trailer, I decided I would see “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” hoping it would distinguish itself from the rest of the movies in the family market today. Directed by Mark Walters, the same guy who brought you the teen hit “Mean Girls,” “The Spiderwick Chronicles” adapts five hit children’s books into one major motion picture. Following a nasty divorce, Helen Grace (Mary-Louise Parker) brings her family of three out of New York City to live in the house of their great-great-uncle, Arthur Spiderwick. Eighty years before, Arthur had mysteriously vanished while searching for clues about mythical realms. When the Grace family moves into the creepy house Arthur left behind, young Jared Grace (Freddie Highmore) discovers an old book written by Arthur Spiderwick himself. Ignoring the note of warning on its outside, Jared reads the book’s contents, which reveals to him the secrets of the land of faeries and goblins. However, once Jared opens the book, the evil ogre Mulgarath (voiced by Nick Nolte) begins his search for Jared to obtain the secrets he now knows. So, the Grace kids must defeat Mulgarath’s evil army while keeping the book out of harm’s way. I know many people who’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed the “Spiderwick” books. However, all you have to do is look at the “Harry Potter” movies to know that book-to-film adaptations don’t always capture the spirit of a fantasy story. “Spiderwick” is an unglamorous movie and is sure to disappoint newcomers and old fans alike. In comparison to film scripts, books have it easy. They can use lengthy and adjective-laden descriptions to paint pictures of fantastical creatures in the minds of readers. However, scripts have to rely only on dialogue. So, it’s incredibly important that book-to-movie scripts have very good adaptations. However, “The Spiderwick Chronicles’” script is atrocious. Every line comes out forced and fake; none of the dialogue gives the sense of genuine human emotion. Instead, you’re left with arguments and stupid rhymes pushing the script forward. Whereas books have an easier job than scripts any day, movies do have one benefit that stories lack: the use of visuals. Movies can literally paint a picture for the audience. However, if done poorly, a movie falls flat in comparison to what people imagine it should be. The CGI effects in “The Spiderwick Chronicles” come across as somewhat boring rather than fantastical. The ogres and faeries and goblins are nothing you haven’t seen before. They simply fail to amaze and entertain. The effects specialists could have done something really extreme and wonderful with the creatures. Instead, they took the path of commonality and the movie pays the price for it. The one area that “The Spiderwick Chronicles” actually delivers in is action. A few scenes involve the children running from evil monsters who are hell-bent on killing them. As they bolt through secret passageways beneath the ground and evade toad-like goblins, the audience really enjoys itself. The action breaks up the monotony of the slow, dialogue-heavy scenes. In fact, any scene without dialogue is a relief to watch and the action doesn’t fail to intrigue and even frighten the audience. Just because it’s a kids movie doesn’t mean that it can’t have a few scares. Unfortunately, these scenes are so few and far between that they don’t save this movie from its own tediousness. “The Spiderwick Chronicles” is a family film that won’t just leave adults bored, but kids too. It’s a poor imitation of a story that should have amazed and entertained. Instead, the movie comes across as laughably bad. The script is garbage and the visuals air on the side of the mundane. The only thing that breaks up the dullness of the rest of the film is the occasional action. Leave “The Spiderwick Chronicles” alone. You have much better things to spend your time and money on. Grade: 2-