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The Spiderwick Chronicles
(Blu-ray)

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: PG (For Scary Creature Action and Violence, Peril and Some Thematic Elements)

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Starring: Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker, Sarah Bolger, Nick Nolte, Seth Rogen, Martin Short, with Joan Plowright and David Straitharin

Screenplay by: Karey Kirkpatrick and David Berenbaum and John Sayles

Based on the books by: Tony DiTerilizzi and Holly Black

Directed by: Mark Waters

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $39.99

Features: Spiderwick: It's All True!, It's A Spiderwick World!, Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide, Spiderwick: Meet The Clan!, Making Spiderwick, The Magic of Spiderwick!, A Final Word Of Advice, Deleted Scenes, Nickelodeon Promos, Theatrical Trailers

Specs: 2.35:1 Widescreen 1080p High Definition, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Portuguese Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Chapters (12 Chapters)

Released: June 24th, 2008

 

 

"The Spiderwick Chronicles" is presented in a 1080p high definition widescreen transfer, with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. As good as the transfer on the standard DVD was, this one certainly blows it out of the water. What I couldn't get over was the amount of detail I witnessed: the items and decor in the Spiderwick mansion literally popping out, plus all the colors and design elements to the creatures that really differentiate them - I'm not sure they are that noticeable on the regular DVD. 

The world of the movie also comes to life with the remarkably vibrant color saturation: hues are well-adjusted, and I did not detect any smearing. Black are very deep, and fleshtones are pitch-perfect. The transfer is spotless, too. The world of Spiderwick is brought to glorious life here, where you can't help but get caught up. Simply amazing.

 

The standard DVD edition of "The Spiderwick Chronicles" had a very fine Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, but like the HD transfer, the English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track on this Blu-ray disc really takes the movie to another level. Dialogue here is also clear and easy to hear, but has a bit more of a presence. James Horner's excellent score also feels a lot deeper and rich in this TrueHD track, as the instrumentations are creatively mixed through the channels as well. And then there are the surrounds, which are definitely a lot more discrete and have a lot more depth with the added audio resolution. The goblins squealing, the sword fighting and chases sound more robust, bringing you more into the action. And when a magical griffin takes flight, you just might feel you're on its back along with the characters. Bass is also quite deep, and the dynamic range on the track is sweeping and powerful. Along with the transfer, you really get quite the Spiderwick experiece here.

Standard Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are also included in French and Spanish. There are also subtitles in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese on the disc, plus English closed captions that can be accessed through your TV.  

 



Hoo-ray! Pretty much all the extras are in fabulous high definition. First up is Spiderwick: It's All True! (Warning: most of the extras have unnecessary exclamation points in the titles.) This seven minute inroduction begins with director Mark Waters dishing out some Spiderwick-inspired advice, and an overview of the many fantastical creatures in the world that we can't see with normal eyes.

Lasting nearly 9 minutes is It's A Spiderwick World! The authors of the books - Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black - talk about their inspirations in creating their world, and what they wanted to accomplish. They also talk about their creative process a bit too, such as names for creatures - plus their thoughts on having the mode made. Some of the production team also talk about the appeal of the books and its journey to the big screen: producer Kathleen Kennedy, director Mark Waters, co-producer and co-writer Karey Kirkpatrick and producer Mark Canton. Waters is also honest about raising the film's stakes to play to a broader audience: making the characters a little older and amping up the action. Interesting stuff overall.

A nice touch is Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide - a replica of the actual field guide with key descriptions of characters and magic, plus the option to see clips from the movie that feature what you're viewing. There's also a variation on this extra with the "In-Movie Mode": click on the book when it appears on screen, and you can read about a creature or magical element at the appropriate time.

Spiderwick: Meet The Clan! is a nearly 14 minute piece that focuses on the cast and their characters, with much praise from the crew and fellow actors. Here we learn about the challenges Freddie Highmore faced in playing twins and putting on an American accent, Sarah Bolger also putting on an American accent, plus assorted thoughts on the story and themes from David Strathairn, Andrew McCarthy, Nick Nolte, Mary-Louise Parker, Joan Plowright and Seth Rogen. This is a well-rounded and entertaining piece.

Making Spiderwick! is a near-21 minute look at the film's fantastic production design. The authors of the books, Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, seem utterly amazed in how her vision has been brought to full life. We also hear from production designer James Bissell discusses his dual approach in designing the house (a cross between a horror movie and an old English professor's), famed cinematographer Caleb Deschanel discusses the lighting of the movie and illustrator Meinert Hansen talks about his work in designing sets. From there, much of the featurette highlights specific sets, props and the visual effects. Plus, there's James Horner talking about his score. Also giving thoughts are the cast, plus producer Kathleen Kennedy and Mark Waters. Certainly a good watch.

The Magic Of Spiderwick! is a 14 minute, 25 second featurette on the computer artistry of the movie. There's plenty from animators and visual effects supervisors, in how they accomplished some of the creature animation and how they took cues from the books. Also discussed are design inspirations, plus how Seth Rogen ended up being a good vocal fit. A bit technical, but never dry. It's worth a view if you liked the movie and its visual splendors.

A Final Word Of Advice! runs a bit under 2 minutes (a minute of that is of credits for the extras), and bookends with the intro from the first disc where Mark Waters assures us viewers that everything the movie features is based in truth. There are also four Deleted Scenes in completed form and running 8 minutes in total. There are no introductions of explanations why they were cut, but in all, they seem a bit superfluous.

Finally, there are Promos that aired on Nickelodeon, and two Theatrical Trailers
 
 

"The Spiderwick Chronicles" makes for some pretty good family entertainment. This Blu-ray edition is the one to have if you own a player: the transfer is striking, and the TrueHD track is pretty powerful (plus the extras are well done, too). This is a must-buy for fans of the film and families, and it makes a good rental othwerwise - even if you're not 10 years old or under.