Combustible Celluloid
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With: Freddie Highmore, Sarah Bolger, Mary-Louise Parker, Joan Plowright, David Strathairn, Nick Nolte, Martin Short (voice), Seth Rogen (voice), Jordy Benattar, Andrew McCarthy
Written by: Karey Kirkpatrick, David Berenbaum, John Sayles, based on books by Tony DiTerlizzi, Holly Black
Directed by: Mark Waters
MPAA Rating: PG for scary creature action and violence, peril and some thematic elements
Running Time: 97
Date: 01/31/2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Bungle Book

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Directed by Mark Waters (Freaky Friday), co-written by John Sayles, and based on a popular literary franchise, this assembly-line product has darker, more appealing human qualities than something like The Golden Compass. But the overall supernatural conflict amounts to nothing more than a jumble of noisy, fast-moving CGI beasties. (It's way too violent for its PG rating.) Perhaps the film's greatest achievement is Freddie Highmore's convincing performance as twins, the fastidious Simon and the dissatisfied Jared. Having just moved into an old, creepy house, Jared reads a mysterious book, which brings forth an evil ogre (Nick Nolte) bent on getting the book and destroying everything in his way. Mary-Louise Parker plays the wounded single mom. With Sarah Bolger and David Strathairn.

DVD Details: Paramount has released a deluxe 2-disc "Field Guide" edition. Some of the extras seem geared toward younger children, while others seem aimed at older kids with more of a comprehension of film as a technical form. There are several featurettes on both discs, most featuring director Mark Waters (who seems to be enjoying himself). Disc one has a "field guide," describing the various monsters and creatures. You can access the field guide and then look at the corresponding scenes in the film, or you can do the reverse, and access the guide while watching the film. Some of the extras re-assure viewers that this stuff is all true! Other extras include trailers, TV ads and other previews.

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