The Spiderwick Chronicles (2024) Review: A Fantastical Pleasant Surprise

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I’ll be honest, I had no idea what to expect going into The Spiderwick Chronicles. The original books, despite likely being right up my Percy Jackson-loving alley, completely passed me by as a kid. And while I have vague memories of the trailers for the 2008 film adaptation, I never actually saw the film for myself.

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As such, I cannot speak to how the new series, originally produced for Disney+ and nearly thrown in the bin as a cost-cutting measure before being rescued by The Roku Channel, plays as an adaptation or how faithful it is to the source material; though given that the original authors are executive producers, I imagine it’s at least faithful enough.

What I can say is that as an urban fantasy series, The Spiderwick Chronicles is utterly delightful. A creative and consistently captivating show that when it’s not giving you a new creature to admire or new world to be sucked into; is providing some surprisingly strong representation for neurodivergent individuals and non-traditional families. What exactly makes this show so great? Let’s discuss.

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Also Read: Percy Jackson & The Olympians (2023) Review: TV Worthy of the Gods

The Spiderwick Chronicles Plot

The Grace family in The Spiderwick Chronicles (2024)
The Grace family in The Spiderwick Chronicles (2024)

Our story begins as the Grace family, mother Helen, older sister Mallory, and twins Simon and Jared, are moving from Brooklyn, New York to the small town of Henson, Michigan. Specifically, into the ancestral Spiderwick estate that once belonged to the kids’ great grandfather Arthur Spiderwick and their Great Aunt Lucinda.

The family hopes that a local renowned psychiatrist will be able to help Jared with the mental health issues that have gotten him in trouble at school and drove their father to leave; but Jared has little time to worry about that after he discovers a boggart living in the house and puts together the shocking truth. The stories that his mother told him about magical creatures were all real.

Lucinda is the only one to believe Jared and encourages him to reassemble Arthur Spiderwick’s field guide to magical creatures; the pages of which have been hidden all around Henson. Now, it’s up to the Grace kids and their newfound friends to put the guide back together before the shapeshifting ogre Mulgarath can get his hands on it and enact his diabolical plan.

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The Spiderwick Chronicles Critique

Christian Slater as Mulgarath in The Spiderwick Chronicles (2024)
Christian Slater as Mulgarath in The Spiderwick Chronicles (2024)

As to be expected from any good fantasy series, The Spiderwick Chronicles is extremely imaginative in its design and world-building. There’s a large variety of creatures throughout the show from boggarts to ogres to sprites to unicorns and everything in between. And the wonder and discovery that comes from seeing a new creature pop up consistently stays fresh.

And while remaining set in the one small town, the series manages to provide a great deal of location variety both in terms of places within the town of Henson and the various locales of the magical world hiding in plain sight. There’s so much creativity in even just the day-to-day operations of this world which makes it a joy to see unfold.

But what surprised me most about The Spiderwick Chronicles is how well the family stuff worked. The relationship between all the Grace family members feels very authentic to what it’s like to have siblings, living as a child of divorce, and so on. Furthermore, I was extremely impressed with how the character of Jared was handled.

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Jared is the textbook definition of a troubled kid. Issues at school, tensions amongst siblings, and going through multiple therapists with seemingly no improvement. But he’s also not a bad kid either and the show does a great job balancing portraying when his actions hurt others as in the wrong while still displaying an understanding and sympathy for him. He may be flawed, but he’s still human.

The portrayal of Jared really spoke to me as an autistic person in particular. Jared himself is not autistic (At one point, he was diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, but it’s never made clear if that’s what he actually has), but he is neurodivergent and seeing not only him, but multiple neurodivergent characters who exist across that spectrum (including the first time I think I’ve ever seen body dysmorphia in a genre show) portrayed positively was satisfying and genuinely surprising.

The entire cast does a great job here as well. All of the child actors put in some really impressive work, Jack Dylan Grazer brings in yet another strong voiceover performance as Thimbletack (even if the CGI used to portray him is one of the less convincing effects in an otherwise gorgeous series), and Joy Bryant brings a level of depth to Helen that parent characters in fantasy don’t often get. But the highlight would have to be Christian Slater as Mulgarath who is flexing all of his character actor muscles and clearly having a ball doing it.

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If there is one area where The Spiderwick Chronicles does end up faltering, it’s in its pacing. The whole thing moves by very fast and while it mostly works, it still feels like they move certain storylines along too quickly and play their hand too soon regarding certain twists. This overly quick pacing also results in some character relationships and allegiances being hard to follow as people seem to change which side they’re on and back again as constant new information pops up. None of this is a dealbreaker, but it definitely affected how I felt about the show overall.

In Conclusion

Great Aunt Lucinda in The Spiderwick Chronicles (2024)
Great Aunt Lucinda in The Spiderwick Chronicles (2024)

In today’s modern TV landscape, it’s difficult to say whether or not The Spiderwick Chronicles will get a second season, but I genuinely hope it does. Both because I don’t know if I can emotionally handle yet another series I enjoy ending on a cliffhanger and because I feel like this world and these characters genuinely deserve to have their story continued.

The creatures are fun, the world is enthralling, the characters and their relationships are consistently compelling and shockingly raw, and even as someone completely unfamiliar with the source material, I always wanted to see what was going to happen next. The Spiderwick Chronicles is genuinely delightful and probably the biggest pleasant surprise I’ve seen all year. And if a second season can iron out what few shortcomings are present here, then we might just witness the birth of an all-time great.

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9/10

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Written by Callie Hanna

Articles Published: 68

Callie Hanna is an up-and-coming writer, aspiring actor, and full-time nerd. She grew up in a small town in Delaware and was instilled with a love for superheroes, science fiction, and all things geeky from an early age. When she's not catching up with her comically large backlog of movies, games, shows, and comics, Callie can be found working, writing, chatting with friends, or browsing the dying husk of Twitter.