The Spiderwick Chronicles
Based on the books by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, The Spiderwick Chronicles attempts to capitalize on the Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia phenomenon, turning a popular children's fantasy story into a blockbuster movie franchise. Unfortunately, audiences didn't flock to the theaters for Spiderwick, and it grossed a paltry $70 million at US box offices. Potter and Narnia each exceeded that in their opening weekends!
Spiderwick isn't a bad film, but it's geared toward children, and it is very clichéd. The father has abandoned the family, the older teen sister plays the mother role to the younger brothers, and our hero Jared must bring the family together against insurmountable odds with the help of his new-found magical friends.
The AVC encode is nearly perfect. Color rendition is excellent, boasting a natural color pallet with excellent black levels. My only minor gripe is with the detail, which wavers from time to time, especially on longer shots, which are often marred with a veil of softness. Flesh tones are a bit inconsistent as well—some look realistic with facial pours, while others are a little too smooth. Overall, though, I was very impressed.
As expected from a fantasy film, the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack transports you to a magical world. The surround channels are active with ambient effects throughout much of the movie, especially in the woods around the Spiderwick home. The lossless soundtrack has excellent dynamics, especially in the bass department, which is tight and clean. Dialog reproduction is clear, and the front soundstage is wide and deep.
Paramount has been a big supporter of HD bonus features, and this release is no exception. The BD50 disc is loaded with features highlighted by "Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide," which explains many of the whimsical creatures from the film. This material can be viewed separately or within the movie itself when a special note appears onscreen—clicking on the note takes you out of the movie. My kids watched the film in this mode on their second viewing and really enjoyed it.
Additional features include deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, and various other items about the Spiderwick universe. TV spots and two theatrical trailers round out the abundant bonus features that will keep the kids busy for hours.
My wife and kids really liked the movie, but I didn't find the story very original. The special effects by ILM are quite good, the story moves at a brisk pace, and the action sequences are compelling and entertaining. Still, I can't put my finger on that missing piece of magical entertainment. If you have grade-school kids, they will probably enjoy it, and there is definite replay value for that audience.
Release Date: June 24, 2008
Film: 7 out of 10
Picture: 9 out of 10
Sound: 9 out of 10
JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)
Belkin PF60 power conditioner
M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer
Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector