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Review: The Spiderwick Chronicles

     

     (PG)

    Young Jared (Freddie Highmore) hates it when his about-to-be-divorced mother Helen (Mary Louise-Parker) takes him, his twin brother Simon (also Highmore), and older sister Mallory (Sarah Bolger) to live in the dilapidated, Addams Family-style mansion which once belonged to their great, great uncle Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn).

    When strange things start happening, Jared finds Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You, a book that leads him into the weird world that surrounds the house, populated by dangerous goblins and strange sprites and ruled by evil ogre Mulgarath. When Mulgarath wants to use the book to do harm, it is up to Jared, aided by his siblings and helpful hobgoblin Hogsqueal, to save the day.

    Harry Potterphiles are doubtless delighted at the news that the final film in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is to be split into two parts and shown six months apart. Happily, fantasy film fans not exclusively wedded to the exploits of the boy wizard are magnificently catered for by this magical, not-to-be-missed adventure based on a series of best-selling children’s books, cunningly adapted by Karey Kirkpatrick, David Berenbaum and John Sayles. Mark Waters directs with great storytelling panache and style, aided by superb state-of-the-art movie magic that brings the “Fantastical World” vividly to life.

    Highmore, who gets better and better, is perfect in his dual role, skilfully delineating the two brothers and never allowing special effects to upstage him. Bolger is fun as his feisty fencing sister, Nick Nolte shambles in as himself before morphing into the horrible ogre and Seth Rogen, who voices Hogsqueal, triumphantly proves actors can be heard and not seen, and still be great. Suspenseful, exciting and just scary enough, Spiderwick is a genuine family jewel.

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