The Spiderwick Chronicles

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Spiderwick Chronicles Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Book-based family fantasy is magical fun but also scary.
  • PG
  • 2008
  • 97 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 60 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 62 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Spiderwick Chronicles is a fantasy adventure. It was 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written bykimcsw April 9, 2008

Should have been PG 13!

This movie is not appropriate for young children! Like another reviewer I am shocked that this movie got a PG rating! My friend and I took our sons to a summer... Continue reading
Adult Written bySlendyDaMan October 9, 2018

really good

I'm 19 right now, and I still remember how good this movie was when I saw it at age 10. I've always been good with scary movies, but honestly this mov... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byanonymous_37 May 17, 2020

It's fine for kids to watch

I watched this movie with my seven year old brother and he was fine! It has good messages like the importance of family. There is some violence but most of the... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byyoyo346 March 28, 2020

the best!!!!!!!!!!

super good movie!!!

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Spiderwick Chronicles'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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy adventures

Themes & Topics

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