the spiderwick chronicles

When I was five years old, Mom and Dad gave me a boxed set of all seven volumes of C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. I was already an avid reader by then (maybe I'll tell you about that sometime), and I devoured the books--not once or twice, but more times than I could count. Seriously. Dad and I used to quote the books to each other in the course of normal conversation. (Yes, people, I have always been that nerdy.)

The great thing about C. S. Lewis (though of course I couldn't articulate this as a five-year-old) is that he wrote great literature for children, without ever patronizing his audience. The characters are round, deep, and dynamic; the storylines are intricate; the concepts are complex. Even now, as a twenty-nine-year-old, the books are just as challenging and satisfying. Best of all, every time I read them, I discover something new.

So you can see, I've been spoiled from an early age to expect children's literature with real substance, something that can actually stimulate ideas and make a person think. I admit the bar's a bit high, but there it is. Unfortunately, The Spiderwick Chronicles doesn't quite reach.

The story's cute enough: two boys and a girl, still smarting from their parents' recent separation, move into a creepy old house. Presently they find that an ancestor of theirs had uncovered a whole other magical world in the forest around the house, and wrote down his observations of that world in a book. One of the kids (of course it's the rebellious one who tells off his mom all the time--cliché alert!) discovers the book and, subsequently, the secret magical world.

The creatures are kind of cool. The animation is great. Of course, the voices of Seth Rogen, Martin Short, and Nick Nolte are just money in the bank. I gotta say it, though: that Freddie Highmore kid pisses me off. He plays both of the boys (they're twins), and he does this annoying thing during all his reaction shots: he just sits there with his mouth hanging open. ACTING, ladies and gentlemen!

OK, so there's not really much of anything wrong with the movie... I guess if you've got kids, bring 'em. But do them a favor... don't let this be the only kind of entertainment (movie or literature) that you expose them to. Take your children to The Spiderwick Chronicles once, but let C. S. Lewis be their regular bedtime story.
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2 Response to "the spiderwick chronicles"

  1. Anonymous Says:
    March 5, 2008 at 12:15 AM

    Thanks for the review, Nayana ... I grew up on Lewis as well. Have you read his "adult" fantasies "Out of the Silent Planet," "Perelandra" and "That Hideous Strength?" Although it's been awhile, I remember them as being dark and very creepy, especially the 3d one.

  2. Nayana Anthony says:
    March 5, 2008 at 6:39 AM

    I got through Out of the Silent Planet and half of Perelandra; do you recommend I finish them?

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