Posted by: Dr P | December 11, 2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles

I’ve had an absolutely fab idea for a new TV commercial.

We fade in to a close up shot of a Singer sewing machine. As the camera pans out we can see it is sitting on a dusty worktop in what appears to be a mechanical repair shop. The assistant behind the counter looks into the camera and says “So, how can I be of assistance, Mr Stewart?” The camera changes view so we now see Patrick Stewart in full Jean-Luc Picard regalia … with a knowing wink to the viewing public, our hero simply smirks and says … “Make it sew”.

It is always enjoyable taking in a flick of an evening. It’s doubly enjoyable in the presence of regular wingman Gareth aka Big G. We weren’t exactly spoilt for choice for this week’s cinematic outing, so settled on this adaptation of the “classic” childrens’ book, the Spiderwick Chronicles. Well I say classic, in fact nobody I know has ever heard of it. Well, I hadn’t, and G hadn’t. If you *had* heard of the book prior to this film release, do please let me know, cos I don’t believe a word of it.

Anyway, it was Gareth’s turn to drive, so we went in his whizzy new dream machine. It’s one of those people carrier things with 100s of cupholders. It also flashes a warning when the temp dips below 3 degrees. I did ask if it supplied a warning message if the radio played “when will I see you again” but apparently not.

We were thrilled to find ourselves literally the only people in our venue. This was particularly amusing as the film was being shown in a cinema of capacity approximating 1000. Bury’s biggest screen, all to ourselves. I rushed down to the front to snap the scene on my mobile but alas it didn’t turn out very well. The cinema being pitch black probably had a bearing on that. It did however provide intense amusement among Billy No Mates (Gareth) and his mate (Me) when the adverts started and I shouted “Can you just turn the sound up a little bit, please”. You had to be there. Although that would of course have meant there was someone else there and thus rendered this entire paragraph obsolete. Ahem.

The ads were weird for 3 reasons. a) the first one that played was for PG Tips and went on for about 10 minutes, b) some other people arrived, which ruined the ambience somewhat – although it did provide more chuckles with the “can you get out of our cinema, please?” line, and c) no Orange advert *fume*.

This being a PG film, the trailers were predictably aimed at the teenage and kiddie market. Or as Gareth suggested “Now for the paedo films”. Hmm. Thankfully there was no sign of Bratz 2 – When Frat Girls Go Mad, but there was a trailer for the summer Pixar film about a robot, which looks excellent.

Right onto the film. In short, Arthur Spiderwick wrote a book (aha! The Spiderwick Chronicles!) detailing his discovery of the supernatural world around us. His house and its surroundings were filled with mystical creatures of all types, both good and bad. Indeed, one might suggest that there hasn’t been a such a large gathering of fairies in one place on film since the Police Academy series’ legendary “Blue Oyster Bar”. However, the things Spiderwick uncovered about the netherworld were of such power that if his book fell into the wrong hands, it could cause the bad beasties to take over the world. So basically the book lives in a protective circle in the house and must never be disturbed.

Spiderwick himself disappeared around 80 years ago, and his 6 yr old daughter was carted off to a home for the mentally disturbed for telling the authorities he had been taken away by these creatures. The house in which they lived has been undisturbed for decades until now, when a new family arrives. The Mum is played by Mary Louise Parker, who got all the looks and talent in the Parker family (her sister, Sarah Jessica is of course famous for three things: her lead role in Sex in the City, her SJP perfume, and for looking like a bedraggled cocker spaniel). The heroes of the film of course are her three kids – these nicely fit your average American family profile. There’s the sensible middle son, who avoids conflict and is nicey nice. There’s a tomboyish teenage daughter who likes fencing (!), and then the rebellious youngest son, Jared, who is not only apparently named after a villain from Superman II (I think I have that all wrong) but also likes to destroy things.

So Jared inevitably discovers the book and the note which has been left on the cover urging people never to read the book. He reads it. Like … duh. That sets off a whole chain of events in which the nasty goblins start to stalk the family and so on. I don’t like to give away too many spoilers in these reviews* so I’ll simply say that part of the book falls into the wrong hands, the kids have to rescue the “mad” daughter, and they also have to summon the aid of a mighty bird, the Gryffin, to travel to find Arthur Spiderwick himself. In fact you might say … they have to use the Gryffin door. If this was a Harry Potter review, that joke would be great.

(* what I actually mean is that I can’t be bothered writing any more about the film, I’d rather concentrate on the gags)

There was also one particularly amusing moment where the bad ogre thing that wants the book in order to wreak havoc on the world makes his first appearance, in the guise of a bearded, wizened old man. This prompted one of the latecomers behind us to say “It’s Gandalf!” which cracked us up.

One little gem of info from the film – goblins can be destroyed by Ketchup. In much the same way as classic compilation CDs can be destroyed by Las Ketchup and their imaginatively titled euro pop hit “The Ketchup Song”. So of course there’s a classic scene in which lots of goblins meet their maker thanks to a ketchup explosion. It’s like Jamie Oliver gone wrong. Except that they probably didn’t say something like “Pukka”. Or maybe they did …

There’s a ludicrously over-sentimental ending that you could spot coming from about 2 minutes in, but it doesn’t really detract from what is, after all, a bit of harmless kids entertainment. Perfect for me and G then! We enjoyed it thoroughly. Go and see it!

Marks (out of 10)

Human acting – 5
Mystical creature acting – 8
Believability – 1
Ketchup – 6 (it looked like runny Tesco’s own, not HP)
Twee sentimentality – 9
Owning Bury’s largest cinema – 9 (minus one for the latecomers)
Patrick Stewart advertising campaign possibilities – 10

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