Or was it watching a movie where three teens find that the one thing they're each good at proves useful both in the real and fantasy realms?
While Cora's mom didn't love love love the movie (too many CGI trolls and goblins, not enough human character exposition), she very much enjoyed the story about the power of observation and of reading.
Spiderwick opens with Mrs. Grace (Mary-Louise Parker) and her troubled brood driving to her family's ancestral home in Upstate New York. Since Mrs. Grace is separated from Mr. Grace, seething Jared has seceded from the family. He wants to be with his dad, not his short-tempered mother or his bossy sister or his brainiac brother.
On their first night at the ramshackle Victorian built by their great-great-uncle, naturalist Arthur Spiderwick, and left to them by his dotty daughter, Lucinda, the Graces are spooked.
The windowsills are blanketed with salt and the larder overstocked with tomato sauce and honey. That skittering noise you hear suggests a very large critter rattling around inside the walls.
Unable to sleep, Jared rummages in the attic and discovers, sealed, a field guide to the "faerie world" compiled by Arthur. When Jared breaks the seal to read it, all heck breaks loose.
Highmore (Finding Neverland, August Rush) is scary-great. The young English actor (he's 16 today) creates two entirely different characters for Jared and Simon and is enormously watchable. As Mallory, Bolger (In America) is as spirited as she is lovely, vigilantly defending the Spiderwick estate from intruders while she defends her mother from Jared's outbursts.
Cora's mom likes Spiderwick's message more than she liked the effects-laden movie itself. The film underscores the power of reading, and applying what we read to problem-solving. The story suggests that we don't really see the natural world around us, and if we did our lives, like Jared's and his siblings', would be immeasurably richer.
The Spiderwick Chronicles ***
Directed by Mark Waters. With Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker and Sarah Bolger.
Running time: 1 hour, 31 mins.
Parent's guide: PG (scary animatronic creatures, teens in peril)
Showing at: area theaters
Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://go.philly.com/flickgrrl.