THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES Directed by Mark Waters. 90 minutes. Opens Thursday (February 14). Rating: NNN
Is there anything Freddie Highmore can’t do? In his last film, the young Brit faked an American accent rivalling Hugh Laurie’s. In The Spiderwick Chronicles, based on the popular books, he goes one better, playing two Americans – twins Jared and Simon Grace.
Jared and Simon have just moved into their aunt’s spooky old house with their mom (Mary-Louise Parker) and sister Mallory (Sarah Bolger) and quickly find that it’s being guarded by a brownie named Thimbletack (voiced by Martin Short). Seems great-great uncle Spiderwick found out too much about the hidden magical world around him, and now an ogre wants to use that information to kill all the other creatures. The kids have to protect the house and hide their uncle’s book from an army of rampaging goblins.
None of the CGI creatures matches the slimy solidity of, say, the giant toad in Pan’s Labyrinth. And the film’s message – that “scientific” databases of knowledge are dangerous and inferior to simple faith – is pretty frightening to consider.