©2008 Big Empire Industries and Randy Shandis Enterprises
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This week:
The Spiderwick Chronicles

Filthy says:
"Feed the kids the formula."

I don't know, man. I just don't know what to think of movies like The Spiderwick Chronicles, that are made in some Chinese factory right alongside the action figures and lunchboxes. On the one hand, I admire the machinery geared up to make it for its cold efficiency. After all, if it weren't for Chinese factories I would never have been able to afford a full-size jig saw for the living room. On the other, it's sort of fucking sick to think that our entertainment and someone else's art can be turned into an interchangeable, commodified and bland pile of nothing.

Here's the thing: there's nothing wrong with The Spiderwick Chronicles. It's well-made with what looks like a pretty fucking big budget. There are special effects where they're supposed to be. There are lots of thrilling ups and downs and huge battles with fantasy creatures like goblins and ogres. It's got a portal to a fantasy world that only kids can see through, and an adult who doesn't believe them. And, it has little ones who suffer because of the incompetence of adults.

It has all the shit that some grassfucking lame-assed executive has on his generic checklist of what every fantasy movie must have in order to be a big fucking hit. In other words, what every fantasy movie before it has had. Spiderwick Chronicles doesn't try to do anything better than has already been done; it just wants to put a new brand name on it.

Freddie Highmore, a lopsided-faced English kid, plays twins Jared and Simon Grace. Jared is a loosey-goosey troublemaker. Or so we are told repeatedly. The movie never has time to let him be one. Simon is the straitlaced, bookworm one. Again, more told than shown. They, along with their older sister and mother, move into an inherited and creepy old country mansion (of course) where things are a little strange. The previous tenant was shipped off to a loony-bin, and left behind a shitload of honey, salt and tomato sauce.

As these stories always go, the troublemaker finds a path into a secret world. He also finds a pantload of trouble. This time, the fantasy world is supposed to be all around us, we just can't see it. Sort of like the profits in real estate those assholes on late-night television talk about. If you look through a stone with a hole in it, you can see pixies posing as flowers and goblins stirring up leaves. You can also see the ogre that wants to get his hands on the field guide to invisible creatures.

The movie doesn't explain nearly enough to make a lot of the screen activity make sense. There is an ogre hellbent on getting the book. The movie keeps telling us that if he gets it, he will destroy everything, both in the fantasy world and outside. What it doesn't tell us is why or how. It just says the kids have to run around a lot and scream and throw stuff. Also, the movie never explains that while nobody can see invisible creatures without a magic stone, everyone can hear them whether they want to or not. How fucking anonymous can goblins and ogres be if they're always squealing and grunting like the Harelip whenever the Tavern gets a fresh jar of pickled eggs?

As in all fantasy movies for kids, the adults onlybelieve once the situation is dire. The kids save the day through ingenuity, pluck and a tiny bit of luck, and then the adults apologize.

What makes it hard to write a review for The Spiderwick Chronicles, besides the 22 Pabst Blue Ribbons I just finished, is that it's so damn hard to be excited or pissed about something so obvious. The movie has a few odd moments. A piglike creature played by Seth Rogen spits in people's eyes, and it's a favor. Tomato sauce can be used to burn goblins, and I don't mean Kroger's generic tomato sauce, which burns a hole in my ass. And Nick Nolte plays the ogre, which is a daring choice for a kids' movie.

Come to think of it, should any movie with Nick Nolte in it be rated less than R? Would you want your kids to look at his crazed, withered and horrid being? I'm sure that or the smallest children, one gaze upon him may be fatal. And not mysteriously fatal like that crib-thing baby shaking dads always blame. I mean, like your kids' eyes bleed, his ears explode and his fingers just fall off right there in the popcorn. One time late at night I saw some reality show with him in it and it made me impotent for three weeks. Fuckin' Nolte.

Anyway, the point is, the critical bits of the movie are so fucking tired they just pull of the highway and get a motel room. Divorced parents means one kid is going to tell another he's the reason for the split. A creepy house means something's in the attic. And so on.

The only part I could really get all pissed off about is the appallingly hokey where an old woman is reunited with her timeless father and turned forever into her little girl again. Then they are both whisked away by fairies. It has little do with the rest of the movie, and it's so fucking schmaltzy it made me want to puke. And that was before the Pabsts.

I have the sense that the five Spiderwick novels that make up the source material have a lot more cool stuff in them than makes it to the screen. It's just that a shitload of detail has to get boiled off to make one movie. Too bad, because all that's left is some tired old bones. Two Fingers for The Spiderwick Chronicles.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



Nick DiGilio of WGN Radio

Diary of the Dead is "A masterpiece! It's only February, but I bet I don't see a better film in 2008!"

It's a bitch, ain't it, Nick, having to wait until the end of the year to declare the year's best?

Filthy's Reading
Dashiell Hammett- The Maltese Falcon

Listening to
Lifter Puller - Fiesta + Fiascos


Bourne Supremacy