Saturday, December 19, 2009

“The Spiderwick Chronicles” – Do they have to pay Highmore double?

It’s hard to know what to expect from a Nickelodeon film. I know what you’re thinking, “Why are you watching a movie made by the people who brought us Gak and Double Dare?” My answer: Bite me. I’ll watch what I want! I like fantasy, so deal with it. Actually, the main reason is because I was on a flight from Denver to London and my choices were limited. The others were “Be Kind Rewind,” “Nim’s Island,” “Definitely, Maybe,” “Run, Fat Boy, Run” and “Street Kings.” Well, I hate Jack Black, I can only take so much Abigail Breslin (she’s freaking everywhere), I’d already seen “Definitely, Maybe” (plus, that channel wasn’t working) and “Run, Fat Boy, Run” just looked boring. That left “Street Kings,” which I was going to watch later, although I ended up only watching some of it. I fell asleep, saw the end, then watched the first hour (while eating a nasty airline breakfast) before they ended their in-flight service and shutting it off. Oh well, it wasn’t very good anyway.

Let’s get back to the film at hand though. “The Spiderwick Chronicles” is about a guy named Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn) who discovers that magical creatures are living among us in the real world. He catalogues his discoveries in a book, but also discovers that an evil ogre, Mulgurath (Nick Nolte; big stretch, right?) wants this knowledge in order to take over the world. Spiderwick refuses to destroy the book and is whisked away by fairies after hiding and protecting the book in his house. Decades later, his relatives move into the house; a mom (Mary-Louise Parker), her daughter and twin sons (both played by Freddie Highmore). Now, I must admit that I have no idea what the background of this movie is. I think it’s from a TV series, but I’m not sure. Plus, I can’t look it up because I am currently on an airplane, flying back from London.

Anyway, my question is, why did they need twin boys? Did young Highmore request this or did they think it was clever? The two boys are opposites of each other, even though they are twins. One is a nerdy, brainy, do-as-you’re-told kid, while the other is an obnoxious little shit, who hates his mom and blames her for his dad leaving. The fact that he played both roles does not show that he is any better an actor than if he was only playing one part. It just shows that he can act like a kid. This was very distracting and did not play well into the story. And while we’re on the subject of acting, what was David Strathairn doing in this movie? I understand that it’s a paycheck, but does he really not have any better offers? He’s a great actor and this kind of shit can only hurt careers. Just ask Emma Thompson how she’s feeling about having done “Nanny McPhee.” She should be ashamed of herself.

The rest of the story is basic. The asshole twin discovers the book, ignores the warning on front, and opens it. This alerts Mulgurath and his minions and the children are forced to face the danger and protect the book. The rest of the movie is filled with less than creative or unique creatures, the asshole twin constantly getting them into more trouble by repeatedly taking the book outside the house, the sister acting like a typical fifteen year-old girl, and the final confrontation with Mulgurath. This movie is typical of what has been released in the fantasy genre lately. There is hardly any imagination (yes, I’m talking to you J.K. Rowling), with most authors just recycling creatures from fairy tales. Nickelodeon even manages to recycle their Gak in the form of spit, which one of the creatures uses to give the kids the ability to see the magical creatures (only somewhat imaginative). This happens to be thing the closest thing to punishment the kid gets for being an asshole; a huge disappointment in my opinion.

If you’re looking for two hours of mindless, recycled story, this one’s for you (and your boring kids). Otherwise, do yourself (and your kids) a huge favor and watch “Labyrinth.” Magical mucous is no match for creepy hand faces and the closest thing to an asshole is the Bog of Eternal Stench. Cheery-O!

Rating: It’s only worth whatever Gak costs these days. Or a bag of stale peanuts.

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