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October 8, 2008
The Spiderwick Chronicles Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
3/4/200827/8/2008ParamountMark Waters
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Dolby TrueHD 5.1PGFreddie Highmore

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Freddie Highmore in The Spiderwick Chronicles.

The Spiderwick Chronicles, as with so many children’s movies, started life as a series of five books. Written by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black the movie actually takes aspects from all five of the published books to create this movie. Criticisms have been raised that this movie leaves out large segments and themes from the books, but what do you expect when you're compressing so much literature down into a movie less then two hours long.

When the three Grace children - troubled Jared, his bookish twin Simon, and their sister Mallory - move to the ancient Spiderwick mansion, they are at first none-too-enchanted by the rundown Victorian, until they discover a Brownie, an enchanted creature, living in the walls. They soon find a book - Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You - that will open their eyes to the invisible, odd, and sometimes dangerous world of dragons and boggarts, phookas and fairies, sprites and goblins that is all around them. When they cross paths with Mulgarath, an ogre, they realise quickly that he will stop at nothing to get his hands on the Field Guide.

Having never read the books I walked into The Spiderwick Chronicles not knowing what to expect. What I discovered was a wonderful fantasy world filled with likable characters, and wonderful creatures. The movie gets off to a flying start and rarely lets up during the 95 minute runtime. (Interestingly, several sites on the internet, including IMDB, also list a 107 minute runtime for this movie, however there is no extended version on this disc, and I'm not sure where it can be found as the DVD released in Australia contains the same movie as this Blu-Ray). It is probably important to know that this movie does contain some violence (against monsters, not other humans) as well as some rather scary scenes and moments so parents should be aware of this.

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The sprites look absolutely wonderful.
In terms of acting the biggest kudos must be given to Freddie Highmore who plays brothers Jared and Simon Grace. While they are identical twins, each has a distinct personality and Freddie plays these roles perfect. Sarah Bolger is equally brilliant as their sister Mallory while Mary-Louise Parker is perfectly cast as their mother.

The Spiderwick Chronicles is a very entertaining movie with its drawback being it doesn't really offer anything dramatically different to what we've seen many times before, and to be honest it isn't up to the quality of movies such as Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia, but it's not far off. The Spiderwick Chronicles has a few frights and a bit of violence, but this is a movie that will have teenagers quite entertained - and probably a few adults too!

Presented in 1080p at the films original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 this AVC MPEG-4 encoded movie looks quite impressive. It is a pretty short movie, and with this being a dual layer 50GB disc, there is plenty of room for the movie to breathe with a typically high bitrate. Colours are vibrant, detail impressive and this Blu-Ray disc really demonstrates the benefits of the format over DVD.

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CG effects in Spiderwick are great.
If you want to see just how magical this transfer can look have a look at the scene from 46:33 to 48:56 when the children go to visit Aunt Lucinda at the nursing home and the spirtes come out from the garden bed. Gorgeous, lush colours, and plenty of detail abounds. The movie is filled with CG characters, and they really do look quite superb as they run around (for the most part) terrorising the children.

In terms of visual issues there is little to complain about. I did find a couple of the scenes a little soft and lacking the sharpness of others, and while much of this movie takes place in low light such as in the attic or during night - and generally the image is very good - there are some scenes where the detail seems to get lost where it should remain. Still, these are all small issues.

As with most of Paramount's Blu-Ray releases the main audio track on this disc is an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless track. It really is a wonderful experience and being such a recent movie there is plenty of use of the surround channels as well as the sub-woofer. The dialogue is clear at almost all times, but there was one or two lines which were a little harder to understand. Music from James Horner really is lively and suits the tone of the music perfectly.

Other languages on this disc include French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks encoded at 640kbps. Brief samples of select scenes in each track were impressive so you won't be disappointed with the result there, that's for sure. The disc contains subtitles in English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese and from sampling the English track the subtitle text, and pacing, is accurate to the action on screen.

The Spiderwick Chronicles on Blu-Ray contains a few extras which, while short, are worth watching. The Field Guide is also quite impressive and as with Paramount's other Blu-Ray releases these extras are presented with High Definition video.

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Freddie Highmore, again.
Spiderwick: It's All True! (7:04/HD): A fun little feature in which the films director Mark Waters discusses how the world of Spiderwick is true and discusses the numerous creatures in the world.

It's a Spiderwick World! (8:44/HD): A great little extra where the writers actually discuss the ideas of the movie, the characters and their names, and placing them in the Spiderwick universe.

Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide (HD): This very cool extra allows you to look through the field guide at all the creatures and all the details in which form the basis of the movie. There's even an option when looking at the creatures in the pages of the Field Guide, to see a clip from the movie featuring that creature.

Field Guide In-Movie Mode (HD): Essentially a pop-up trivia track with plenty of interesting information. In fact, this feature works in the opposite to the Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide feature discussed above in that you can be watching the movie, and at points in the movie hit Enter on your remote to see the related Field Guide Page.

Spiderwick: Meet the Clan! (13:54/HD): Looks at the actors that portrayed the characters in the movie. Freddie Highmore is a highlight of this feature with a look at how he played two roles in the movie.

Making Spiderwick (20:53/HD): Another brilliant feature from Paramount this looks at the production of the movie including making sets, props, locations, visual effects and scoring the movie with James Horner.

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Talented Sarah Bolger as Mallory Grace.
A Final Word of Advice! (1:51/HD): A final reminder from the director that the world is real and to keep salt and Tomato Sauce handy! This also includes the extras credits.

Nickelodeon TV Spots (5:04/HD): The 9 TV spots used to advertise the movie. Obviously made for TV, these are also the only extra presented in Standard Definition.

Theatrical Trailers (4:36/HD): Two trailers (Good Vs Evil and Secrets) are presented in High Definition with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio at 640kbps. Quite good trailers really...

For a children’s movie I was surprised how many frights, and how much violence was in this movie. It looks and sounds wonderful, and really is a disc that is worth adding to you collection. If you haven't seen the movie as yet then it's worth a rent at the very least.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Paramount. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.