The Spiderwick Chronicles (film)

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The Spiderwick Chronicles
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMark Waters
Screenplay by
Based onThe Spiderwick Chronicles
by Tony DiTerlizzi and
Holly Black
Produced by
CinematographyCaleb Deschanel
Edited byMichael Kahn
Music byJames Horner
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release dates
  • January 31, 2008 (2008-01-31) (Hollywood)
  • February 14, 2008 (2008-02-14) (United States)
Running time
95 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$90 million[2]
Box office$164.2 million[2]

The Spiderwick Chronicles is a 2008 American fantasy film directed by Mark Waters from a screenplay by Karey Kirkpatrick, David Berenbaum, and John Sayles, based on the book series of the same name by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. It stars Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker and Sarah Bolger, with Nick Nolte, Seth Rogen, and Martin Short in voice roles. The film, set in the Spiderwick Estate in New England, follows three children who discover a field guide to fairies while encountering various magical creatures such as goblins, ogres, brownies, boggarts, hobgoblins, trolls and many others.

The film is dedicated to Scott Rathner, who died on August 12, 2007. Produced by Nickelodeon Movies and distributed by Paramount Pictures, it was released on February 14, 2008, earning $162.8 million against its $90 million budget. The Spiderwick Chronicles received generally positive reviews from critics, with Highmore's dual performance being singled out for praise. The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 24, 2008, in the United States.[3]


In 1928, Arthur Spiderwick writes a field guide about the many fairies he has encountered. After finishing the Book, he hides it away for fear of Mulgarath, a shapeshifting ogre who plans to use the Book's secrets for evil.

Eighty years later, recently divorced Helen Grace inherits and moves into the abandoned Spiderwick estate with her children, daughter Mallory and twin sons Jared and Simon. Jared is angry about the move and would rather live with his father, Richard Grace. After uncovering a hidden dumbwaiter, Jared discovers Arthur's study where he finds the Field Guide. When Jared explains his discovery of the Book and the existence of magical creatures, his family does not believe him.

The next morning, Jared meets a brownie named Thimbletack, who is initially angry with Jared for having opened the book that Thimbletack was supposed to be protecting from Mulgarath. Jared placates him with crackers and honey, and Thimbletack gives Jared a holed stone that allows Jared to see the normally invisible faeries by looking through it. Thimbletack tells him about the protective mushroom circle surrounding the house.

Jared then witnesses Simon's abduction by goblins, led by Redcap. Simon is taken to the goblins' campsite where he is confronted by Mulgarath who is disguised as an old man. Jared sneaks into the campsite to save him where he meets Hogsqueal, a hobgoblin who gives Jared the ability to see faeries without the stone by spitting in his eyes so that he can help him get revenge on Mulgarath for killing his family. Mulgarath releases Simon so he can fetch the Book for him. Jared finds Simon and both fight over the Book before they are chased by the goblins. The twins flee back to the house, and Mallory, upon almost being ambushed by the goblins, realizes Jared was right and fights them off with her fencing sabre.

After failing to try and burn the Book due to a protective spell over it, the children decide to visit Arthur's daughter, their great-aunt Lucinda Spiderwick, for advice. While Simon distracts the goblins, Mallory and Jared take the Book and escape through an underground tunnel. Chased by a troll sent by Redcap, they narrowly escape when it is struck and killed by an oncoming truck. Jared and Mallory meet the elderly Lucinda in the psychiatric hospital where she lives, surrounded by sprites. She tells the children that they need to find her father and have him destroy the Book and that, for eighty years, Arthur has been held captive by the sylphs. At that moment, Redcap and his goblins attack them through the window and manage to tear off several pages from the Book before being driven off. Among the stolen pages, Mulgarath is pleased to find information on how to break the protective circle.

While Helen is driving Jared and Mallory home, she and Jared argue over her disbelief; Jared angrily tells his mother that he hates her and does not want to live with her anymore. Later, Hogsqueal, having overheard Mulgarath's plan, informs the children while also giving Simon and Mallory the ability to see faeries as well. Jared then tries to call his father again, but a sympathetic Mallory tells him that their father has moved in with another woman after his and Helen's divorce and will not be coming for him, causing a heartbroken Jared to regret his angry words to Helen earlier. Jared, Simon, and Mallory then use the Book to summon a griffin, which takes them to the sylphs' realm. There, they meet Arthur, who has not aged and is unaware of the time he has spent there. Jared asks him to destroy the Book only to find out that Thimbletack had switched the pages with a cookbook and kept the real Book. Arthur is relieved until Jared tells him that Mulgarath knows how to break the protective circle. Arthur informs Jared that the sylphs will not allow them to leave as they, like him, know too much about the faeries and do not want them to reveal their existence to the world. Arthur helps them escape by distracting the sylphs with the fake book.

At home, the children finally convince their mother of the truth when they save her from the goblins' attempted ambush and she then sees Thimbletack upon her return home. Meanwhile, the goblins finish spreading their potion, which successfully breaks the circle as the full moon rises. The family defend themselves with kitchen knives and tomato sauce/salt bombs (ingredients deadly to goblins) that Simon and Thimbletack made earlier and manage to kill Redcap and the goblins in an explosion of tomato sauce. Suddenly, Richard appears, claiming that he has decided to come back and stay with them; however, Jared, having remembered what Mallory told him earlier, stabs him, revealing him to be Mulgarath in disguise. Mulgarath then pursues Jared and the Book throughout the house before cornering him on the roof. Jared outwits the ogre by tossing the book over the side of the roof. Mulgarath transforms into a bird to catch it, but he is suddenly grabbed and eaten by Hogsqueal, as hobgoblins love to eat birds. Afterwards, Jared and his mother reconcile, with Jared deciding to live with her, and they help Simon, Mallory, and Hogsqueal gather the Book's scattered pages.

Several weeks later, the family brings Lucinda to visit Thimbletack and the house. The sylphs then arrive with Arthur, allowing him to briefly visit now that the Book is safe. However, Arthur cannot stay long as he will turn to dust if he remains. Lucinda asks to go with him and is transformed back into a child. The Grace family watch as the sylphs spirit Arthur and Lucinda away before resuming their normal lives with Thimbletack, Hogsqueal, and the griffin.


  • Freddie Highmore as the Grace twins
    • Jared Grace: The main protagonist, the black sheep of the family, and the most reluctant about moving from New York.
    • Simon Grace: Jared's identical twin brother and a pacifistic animal lover.
  • Mary-Louise Parker as Helen Grace: the children's overprotective mother.
  • Sarah Bolger as Mallory Grace: Jared and Simon's firm and brave older sister.
  • Andrew McCarthy as Richard Grace: Jared, Simon, and Mallory's divorced and neglectful father.
    • McCarthy also portrays Mulgarath's disguise of Richard.
  • Joan Plowright as Lucinda Spiderwick, the daughter of Arthur Spiderwick and of Constance Spiderwick.
    • Jordy Benattar as Young Lucinda Spiderwick
  • David Strathairn as Arthur Spiderwick, the author of the guide and former owner of the mansion.
  • Lise Durocher-Viens as Constance Spiderwick, the wife of Arthur Spiderwick and mother of Lucinda Spiderwick
  • Tod Fennell as Helen Grace's co-worker
  • Mariah Inger as Nurse
  • Jeremy Lavalley as Tow Truck Driver

Voice cast



A blue screen set used during filming.

In an interview, Sarah Bolger said that filming took 4–5 months. She said that she "was [in front of] the blue screen like 24 hours a day", and for the most part, she was "kicking and slicing and chopping things that were nowhere near". Since Bolger had many fencing scenes, she had five weeks of intense training, and three hours with the Canadian Olympic fencing coach nearly every day.[4]



Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 81% based on 149 reviews, with an average rating of 6.70/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "The Spiderwick Chronicles is an entertaining children's adventure, with heart and imagination to spare."[5] On Metacritic the film has an average score of 62 out of 100, based on 30 reviews.[6] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "A−" on scale of A to F.[7][8]

Critics called it "decent entertainment,"[9] "a work of both modest enchantment and enchanting modesty,"[10] and "modest and reasonably charming."[11] It was criticized for its reliance on special effects; A. O. Scott of The New York Times said that the movie "feels more like a sloppy, secondhand pander" and called it "frantic with incident and hectic with computer-generated effects,"[12] and another said that "the sense of wonder and magic is lost in the shuffle."[13] Despite some negative reviews for the film overall, Highmore was generally praised for his dual role as the twins Simon and Jared. One critic said that he "skillfully portrays two distinctive personas,"[14] another said he "[had] no trouble grasping the task at hand,"[15] and a third remarked that, "the most special effect is probably Highmore".[16]

The film was nominated by the Visual Effects Society in the category of "Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture" but it lost to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, another film from Paramount Pictures.[17] The film was also nominated for two Saturn Awards for Best Fantasy Film and Freddie Highmore for Best Performance by a Younger Actor.[18]

Box office[edit]

In its opening weekend, the film grossed an estimated $19 million in 3,847 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking #2 behind Jumper at the box office.[2] With the opening day's gross on Thursday included, the film grossed an estimated $24.3 million on its opening weekend.[19] This film has grossed $162.8 million worldwide.[20]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 24, 2009, in the United States.[3] It was re-released on DVD and Blu-ray on September 12, 2011, in the United States.

Television series[edit]

On November 12, 2021, Disney announced that a series would be filmed and released on Disney+. It will be produced by 20th Television with partnership from Paramount Television Studios. The series will not be co-produced by Nickelodeon due to it being produced by Disney and Paramount only. It is also not related to this film. In August 2023, it was announced that the already completed series would no longer be airing on Disney+ due to cost cutting reasons, but it will be shopped to other studios.[21]

Video game[edit]

Vivendi Games, under their Sierra Entertainment label enlisted Stormfront Studios to develop and produce a video game adaptation of The Spiderwick Chronicles, following the general storyline of the books and film.[22] It was released, shortly before the film's opening, on February 5, 2008, for Nintendo DS, Wii, PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 2, and rated Everyone (E10+) by the ESRB.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. December 18, 2007. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 17, 2008.
  3. ^ a b "Breaking: Paramount Unveils Blu-ray Launch Plans | High-Def Digest".
  4. ^ Sarah Bolger Interview, The Spiderwick Chronicles - MoviesOnline
  5. ^ "The Spiderwick Chronicles". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 4, 2020.
  6. ^ "The Spiderwick Chronicles". Metacritic. Retrieved May 4, 2020.
  7. ^ "Jumper vaults to No. 1". Retrieved May 4, 2020. Both also received sweet A- CinemaScore grades, portending leggy runs at the box office…for at least another week.
  8. ^ "SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES, THE (2008) A-". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  9. ^ Richard Corliss (February 15, 2008). "Run from Jumper, Creep Toward Spiderwick". Time Magazine. Archived from the original on February 18, 2008. Retrieved March 5, 2008.
  10. ^ Justin Change (February 10, 2008). "The Spiderwick Chronicles". Variety. Retrieved March 5, 2008.
  11. ^ Peter Sobczynski (February 14, 2008). "The Spiderwick Chronicles". Retrieved March 5, 2008.
  12. ^ A. O. Scott (February 14, 2008). "A House Divided by Old Magic and New Residents". The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2008.
  13. ^ Sean Axmaker (February 13, 2008). "'Spiderwick' looks pretty but offers little". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved March 5, 2008.
  14. ^ Claudia Puig (February 13, 2008). "'Spiderwick' doesn't stick, despite Highmore's performance". USA TODAY. Retrieved March 5, 2008. Freddie Highmore does a fine job in a dual role as identical twins. The talented actor skillfully portrays two distinctive personas.
  15. ^ Elizabeth Weitzman (February 14, 2008). "'Spiderwick Chronicles' fantasy can grow on you". NY Daily News. Retrieved March 5, 2008. Happily, Highmore has no trouble grasping the task at hand.
  16. ^ Ty Burr (February 14, 2008). "A creepy-crawly and digitized faerie tale". The Boston Globe. Retrieved March 5, 2008. The most special effect is probably Highmore, who gets to sharpen up his American accent and who makes each twin, bookish Simon and bad-boy Jared, a functioning individual.
  17. ^ "7th Annual VES Awards". visual effects society. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
  18. ^ "Nominations for the 35th Annual Saturn Awards". Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films. Archived from the original on February 21, 2012. Retrieved March 17, 2009.
  19. ^ "The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008) - Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 17, 2008.
  20. ^ "The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008) - Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 5, 2008.
  21. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (August 26, 2023). "'The Spiderwick Chronicles' Not Going Forward At Disney+ As Part Of Content Cost-Cutting & Strategy Shift; Being Shopped By Paramount TV Studios". Deadline. Retrieved August 26, 2023.
  22. ^ Brendan Sinclair (August 9, 2007). "Sierra snares Spiderwick Chronicles". GameSpot. Retrieved March 4, 2008.

External links[edit]