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The Spiderwick Chronicles
2-Disc Field Guide Edition

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: $29.99

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 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Chapters (12 Chapters), Two-Disc Set

Released: June 24th, 2008

 

 

"The Spiderwick Chronicles" is presented in anamorphic widescreen, with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This is an excellent transfer, that really keeps up with the varied color palettes in the movie. Blacks are rich, and the steely blues also stand out. Yellows and browns in the Spiderwick house are also warm. Exterior scenes, be it on the street or in the forests, look fantastic when it comes to detail and vibrant color saturation. Fleshtones are also downright accurate. The print used for the transfer is remarkably clean, if a little on the grainy side. There is some slight edge enhancement too, plus a little bit of noise and very slight shimmering here and there. In all, this is an outstanding transfer. 

 

"The Spiderwick Chronicles" is presented with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, which is nearly as rich as the magical world the film features. Dialogue is very clear and firmly centered, while James Horner's excellent score has a deep and warm presence through the channels. The track also features some discrete surround sounds with great imaging, be it the creaking in the Spiderwick house, a flight on a magical griffin or when there are battles with goblins. The track also feature deep bass (especially from the subwoofer), high fidelity and fantastic dynamic range. All of the sound elements are balanced, and never overpower one another. You definitely feel pulled into this magical world with this mix.

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

 



The first disc begins with 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.

The second disc starts off with Spiderwick: Meet The Clan! This nearly 14 minute piece 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 2-disc edition of the movie is well worth checking out: the transfer is excellent, the 5.1 mix is engaging and the extras give you a solid overview at the film's production. A must-buy for fans and families, and it makes a good rental othwerwise - even if you're not 10 years old or under.