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A view on Hi-def DVDs by Gary W. Tooze

The Spiderwick Chronicles [Blu-ray]

(Mark Waters, 2008)



Re-issued on March 29th, 2011:


Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Paramount

Blu-ray: Paramount


Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
French: Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

English SDH, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, none

• Featurettes etc. - listed and described below

Disc: 50GB Blu-ray Disc

DVD Release Date: June 24th, 2008


Product Description: From the beloved best-selling series of books comes an extraordinary fantasy adventure revealing the unseen world that exists all around us. From the moment the Grace family moves into a secluded old house peculiar things start to happen. Unable to explain the accidents and strange disappearances the Grace children Jared Simon and Mallory start to investigate and find the unbelievable truth of the Spiderwick Estate and the amazing creatures that inhabit it.



The Film:

"The Spiderwick Chronicles" is a terrific entertainment for the whole family, except those below a certain age, who are likely to be scared out of their wits. What is that age? I dunno; they're your kids.

But I do know the PG classification is insane, especially considering what happens right after a father says he loves his son. This is a PG-13 movie, for sure. But what will cause nightmares for younger kids will delight older ones, since "The Spiderwick Chronicles" is a well-crafted family thriller that is truly scary and doesn't wimp out.

Based on a well-known series of books, the movie involves a soon-to-be divorced mom and her three children who come to live in a creepy old mansion. This is Spiderwick, named after her grandfather Arthur Spiderwick, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The house itself is one of the stars of the movie, looking Victorian/Gothic with countless nooks and crannies and shadows and scary sounds. Is it haunted? Nothing that comforting. It's ... inhabited.

Excerpt from Roger Ebert's Chicago Sun Times review located HERE





Image: NOTE: These captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc. I'd say the image quality is very good but not quite exceptional. There are impressive moments and no glaring flaws but typically when CGI is relied upon those parts are jerky and hazy so as not to give a chance at any real detail to determine the limitations of the computer generated enhancement. Colors are quite striking - especially the outdoor sequences. The MPEG-4 AVC transfer is better than merely 'competent' and it surely must be far in advance of the, simultaneously released, SD edition. There are no untoward manipulations. I can't see anyone complaining about the visual quality of this 1080P DVD. It's probably quite accurate to how the theatrical presentation appeared.


















Audio & Music: James Horner's interludes sound very adept in the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that is offered. I noted some fine separation, and it was the more subtle nuances that I appreciated - forest sounds, creaky house etc. There are a French and Spanish DUB offered in a mere 5.1 and subtitles available in English SDH, English, French, Spanish or Portuguese.




Extras: The supplements on this Blu-ray mirror the two-disc SD package. But the Blu-ray includes one unique extra - the 'in-movie' notes from "Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide." It allows you to continue with the film or segment into the Field Guide for more. Then come the short featurettes - firstly a 5+ minute "Spiderwick: It's All True!" where director Waters details parts of the Field Guide. Following this is a 10 minute piece "It's a Spiderwick World" where the authors, Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, give input as to the evolution of the narrative. Then comes a 20 minute featurette - "Spiderwick: Meet the Clan" - where we are introduced to various cast and crew. It's akin to a Behind-the-Scenes piece. Then there is a 15-minute 'Making of...', another entitled "The Magic of Spiderwick!" - discussing the CGI effects and lastly the director imparts a 2 minute "Final Word of Advice..." Tacked on are some brief deleted scenes, TV Spots and trailers. These extras are advertised as HD but look fairly SD to me. Frankly a bit of overkill with some filler but parts were marginally interesting. 




Bottom line: It's not often I agree with Ebert, but I was also quite taken with The Spiderwick Chronicles finding it far more entertaining than the avalanche of similar children's fantasy films that are available these days. Ebert also makes a great point about the intensity of the 'scare' scenes - they go way over the top for most young children. I'd say this was mid-range Blu-ray experience with nothing exceptional to note in the image department. It was good - as was the audio but perhaps we are being spoiled by superlative 1080P transfers. If you are keen on the film (it's definitely worthy!) and own Blu-ray - then this is the way you want to watch it. Just don't get your hopes up for an overwhelming visual presentation, but it shouldn't under-whelm either.

Gary Tooze
June 24th, 2008



Re-issued on March 29th, 2011:





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