The kid had been bugging me endlessly to see "The Spiderwick Chronicles" for weeks. Even longer than I knew what it was or if I should even care. I'm confident her awareness of the film was clever marketing on all the children-oriented channels (I regret she's not a reader... yet?) Having ventured through those doors, she can call this one a whine-fest worth the effort.
After their parents separate (Dad was cheating), kids Mallory and the twins, Jared and Simon, move with their mom into their relatives' abandoned house. Jared explores the place and finds great great uncle Arthur Spiderwick's office and the book he wrote.
Even though there was a warning not to read the book, Jared does, and draws the attention of Mulgarath, an evil ogre who wants the book to control all of the magical folk. Jared's twin Simon is captured by some goblins who summon Mulgarath in the hope of getting the book.
C'mon, ogres (that aren't charming like Shrek), fairies and a creature referred to as a "Brownie" -- what's not to enjoy? Work in a few fairies, some hidden mysteries in an old house, and you're set (wardrobe and fawns optional).
The cast is also well-selected for this genre. Twins Jared and Simon (both 16-year-old Freddie Highmore, of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "August Rush," "Arthur and the Invisibles" voice of Arthur, "Finding Neverland") is very comfortable as a kid in movies for kids. His older sister, Mallory (17-year-old Sarah Bolger, "In America," "Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker") also is able to off her performance in a way that belies her years.
Or it may help to have someone like director Mark Waters behind the camera who's familiar with making films with a wide audience appeal, but not excluding the teens and tweens in the process. (Waters' past works include the likes of "Mean Girls," the remake of "Freaky Friday," and the date film "Just Like Heaven").
Of course, it's a series book, but if they can keep up with this lofty opening bid of likely sequel(s), I'm in. The biggest trick, as we learned with the "Harry Potter" series, is if you're going to go for a multitude of movies with a child-age actor, finance fast and film back-to-back. (With a 10-year span of the films, it's getting harder to buy into already 18-year-old Daniel Ratcliffe still posing as a 12-year-old boy.)
But see Spiderwick for Spiderwick's sake. Fun for the family, fairies included.