Thanks in no small part to a certain boy wizard, fantasy movies based on children's book series are hot, hot, hot. The latest to come down the pike, The Spiderwick Chronicles, based on the popular series by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, hits the mark on almost all counts. Like a lot of good fantasy films, this one centers around a spooky old house in the middle of nowhere, and opens with the Grace children and their mother pulling into the drive. The Graces have just moved from New York City to this ominous house, left to the mother by an aunt who's in a mental facility. Dad isn't along for the move, creating some nice underlying tension between the sibs and their mom around their fractured family.
The Grace children are twins Jared (the tough, angry kid) and Simon (the dorky, science-geek kid), a dual role played by Freddie Highmore, and older sister Mallory (Sarah Bolger). Jared is not happy to be there; he blames his mother for his parents' marriage falling apart, and wants to move in with his dad. But it isn't long before Jared becomes a bit intrigued by the house ... he discovers the musty office of his great-uncle Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn) -- and Uncle Spiderwick's life work, a Field Guide to the fantasy world. The book is crammed with knowledge of all the races of creatures unknown to most men, but spoken of in lore: faeries, brownies, boggarts, goblins, trolls, and the big meanie of them all, an ogre named Mulgarath.