The Spiderwick Chronicles Movie Poster Image

The Spiderwick Chronicles



Book-based family fantasy is magical fun but also scary.
Popular with kids
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 97 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Jared learns how to take responsibility for unlocking the fantasy world that puts his family in danger. He also realizes that he has to give his mother a chance and that it's not her fault her marriage fell apart. Mallory is a fearless fencer who can defend herself and her younger brothers. While many films dismiss or make fun of the elderly, this movie makes 86-year-old Aunt Lucinda instrumental in saving the Grace family.

Violence & scariness

Siblings bicker and call each other names ("stupid," "idiot"); Hogsqueal catches and eats birds of all sizes; the ogre Mulgarath shape-shifts from human to monster form. The goblins hurt all three kids, leaving bloody marks on their legs/bodies. The climactic battle scene is pretty intense/frightening.

Sexy stuff

Mallory tells her brothers that their father has "found someone else" and is living with the woman.


Minor: "hell," "idiot," "stupid," "crazy."


Mom drives a Ford Explorer; the house is stocked with rows and rows of Quaker Oats and honey bears; the kids have New York Giants and Yankees memorabilia in their room.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this fantasy adventure has been aggressively promoted on Nickelodeon (which helped produce the movie). But even without the heavy rotation of commercials and cereal tie-ins, fans of the best-selling book series will want to see this big-screen adaptation; expect kids as young as 5 to express interest. But the under-7 crowd might be scared by a couple of intense sequences involving the goblins, head ogre Mulgarath, and the Grace children, who do get hurt (with bloody scratches) in the action. Although the movie is connected to merchandising deals with a few products, there isn't that much product placement in the actual film besides Quaker Oats and honey in plastic-bear containers. There's also no age-inappropriate language or sexuality.

What's the story?

When recently separated mom Helen Grace (Mary-Louise Parker) inherits a "creepy old mansion in the middle of nowhere," her three kids have different reactions: Mallory (Sarah Bolger) is understanding, Simon (Freddie Highmore) is cautiously optimistic, and Jared (also played by Highmore) is furious. They soon discover that their great-great-uncle Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn) had unlocked the secrets to the magical realm that exists unseen around humans. When Jared disobeys a "beware" note and opens Spiderwick's 80-year-old field guide, he attracts the dangerous attention of goblins and their dark ogre leader Mulgarath (voiced by Nick Nolte) to the Grace family.

Is it any good?


Highmore -- an expressive, gentle-faced young actor in the mold of Haley Joel Osment -- does a fine job handling the twin brothers' disparate personalities. Likewise, Bolger, who co-starred in In America, is great as a big sister who knows her way around swords (she's an award-winning fencer). Both actors propel the film forward as kids caught up in a sometimes frightening fantasy world. The goblins and head ogre are scary without being terrifying like the orcs in The Lord of the Rings, and there are two memorably silly sidekicks: tiny, honey-loving house goblin Thimbletack (voiced by Martin Short) and gross-out, bird-hunting goblin Hogsqueal (Seth Rogen). Both lighten the dark mood considerably and will be beloved by younger viewers.

Those expecting a sophisticated CGI spectacle a la Peter Jackson or Robert Zemeckis may leave the theater disappointed. But director Mark Waters isn't aiming for a George Lucas-style epic employing revolutionary technology. His vivid adaptation of author Holly Black and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi's award-winning book series conveys magic with shots of swirling, flying dandelions carrying Mr. Spiderwick or colorful flowers turning into sprites. With an engaging script co-written by John Sayles, Waters has managed to ably adapt a kids-as-heroes story that parents will be happy to sit through without snoozing. And when it comes to family films, that counts for a lot.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's themes. How do they compare to other fantasy movies and books? Which specific books or movies does this one remind you of? Why? If kids have read the Spiderwick books, ask them what changes they noticed. Was the film better than you expected? Families can also why Jared was accountable for figuring out how to defend his family from the ogre's wrath. Why are kids rarely believed by adults in fantasy movies? Who does believe the kids?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 14, 2008
DVD/Streaming release date:June 23, 2008
Cast:David Strathairn, Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker
Director:Mark Waters
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Book characters, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
Run time:97 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:scary creature action and violence, peril and some thematic elements

This review of The Spiderwick Chronicles was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent of a 8 year old Written byuusarahmcg September 29, 2009

Scary and exciting (spoiler)

Wow, we all liked this movie, but I was really glad that I was able to prepare my daughter for the part when the monster makes itself look like the boy's father. When watching the movie, it appears that the boy kills his own father. Super scary moment. It's also pretty scary in general when the monster is chasing them around the house. All in all, it was a movie we liked, but it was almost too intense for my 8 year old.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Parent Written bynicolasconnault February 7, 2010

Teenage mild horror, full of plot contrivances

This is a bit more than fantasy, there are quite a few bits that would qualify as mild horror, and some action scenes had me on the edge of my seat, which may be what teens are after, but would be too intense for smaller children. The story itself has some good elements, but the plot is contrived in many aspects. The hobgoblin is probably the biggest contrivance in this movie, solving "annoying" problems for the film-makers, such as giving "sight" to all the kids so they don't have to find more seer stones, and eventually killing the big baddy in one gulp. Another contrived part is the splitting up of the twins from each other, which occurs during the majority of the film. The parts where they are together are brilliantly done, but it is fairly obvious that it is technically very demanding, and was kept to a minimal. The movie is quite full of such convenient twists that do not add to the story but merely seem to be there to avoid major inconsistencies or technical problems. Otherwise, quite entertaining, although very predictable :)
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages
Teen, 13 years old Written byYeah. February 27, 2011

Check my page for other great recommendations.

I'm not here to give a review because if it shows up on my page its a 5 star movie and so therefore you know what i think about it.
What other families should know
Great messages