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Movie Review: The Spiderwick Chronicles

MPAA Rating: PG for scary creature action and violence, peril, and some thematic elements.
Recommend for ages 7 and up.
Run Time: 97 minutes
Head's Up — Kids who scare easily probably won't go for this one.

I know a 10-year-old boy who took one look at ominous poster for "The Spiderwick Chronicles" and declared to his mom, "I'm not going to that."

And no amount of popcorn promises could persuade my 5-year-old daughter to accompany me.

Yet children with multiple "Harry Potter" viewings under their belts likely will find a delightful sense of danger awaiting them in "The Spiderwick Chronicles," which does at times push the limits of its PG rating.

Based on a series of novels by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, the movie centers on "a field guide to the fantastical world around you," which the Grace children – Mallory and her twin brothers Simon and Jared – discover in the dilapidated home they move into after their parents' divorce.

By reading the book, the kids discover the fairies, goblins, and trolls that are otherwise invisible all around us.

As a movie, the special effects do their job and the acting is accomplished (especially by Freddie Highmore, doing double duty as the twins.) But the film's most endearing quality is the way it understands a child's imagination.

Kids are always having adventures involving things adults can't see. They can turn a feather into a fairy's wing or a rock into a precious gem. Spiderwick inflates that sort of creativity to often fantastic, occasionally fearsome proportions.

Kids Will Love: Little giggles accompanied each appearance of Thimbletack, a tiny creature charged with guarding the field guide and given to fits of temper (he's voiced by Martin Short).

Parents Will Love: Parents will appreciate Mary-Louise Parker as the kids' sardonic, beleaguered mom and Seth Rogen ("Knocked Up") as the voice of a comic ally named Hogsqueal.

Josh Larsen's movie reviews also appear in the Naperville Sun and on his web site, Larsen on Film.
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