There are two kinds of fantasy adventures—those that take place in another world (The Lord of the Rings, The Golden Compass), and those in which the fantasy world exists parallel to and often spills into our own (The Chronicles of Narnia, Pan's Labyrinth). The Spiderwick Chronicles, which embeds spiritual truth in the guise of mythology, belongs in the latter category. Much more fantastical and far more handsome than the trailers reveal, The Spiderwick Chronicles is a thrilling adventure for children of all ages.
The Grace family could use a little grace of their own. Dad has run off with another woman and is seeking a divorce, something Mom Helen (Mary-Louise Parker) is trying to hide for as long as possible from her twin sons, Jared and Simon (both played by Freddie Highmore). While Simon is gentle and compassionate, Jared is short tempered and given to bouts of destructive anger. Unable to process his family's disintegration, Jared is taking it out on those who love him the most.
Desperate for a new start on life, Helen moves the family from New York to the secluded Spiderwick Estate in rural Vermont, once owned by her great, great uncle Arthur Spiderwick. Peculiar things begin to occur the moment the Graces step into the spooky Victorian mansion—they're bedeviled by strange disappearances, bumps in the night and mischievous attacks on Mallory Grace (Sarah Bolger). And all accusatory fingers are pointed in Jared's direction.
Out to prove his innocence, Jared stumbles upon a secret room that contains "Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You," a book with a dire warning: to read it is to invite certain death. Like Jumanji, it is not a question of if, but when Jared will crack Pandora's ...1