Review of "The House with a Clock in Its Walls" by The Headless Critic
The House with a Clock in Its Walls – 2018
Production by: Amblin Entertainment, Mythology Entertainment
Distribution by: Universal Pictures
After the tragic death of his parents, young orphan Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) is sent to Michigan to live with his eccentric uncle Jonathan (Jack Black). All of the kids at his new school just know that his uncle’s creepy old house is haunted. The real mysteries inside this estate are just a touch more magical. The living room chair and the outside topiary are house pets that move as freely as a cat or a dog. There’s a cabinet locked up that no one must ever open, the stained glass windows are forever changing their portrait and a there’s a mysterious, never-ending clock ticking within the walls. Lewis learns that his uncle Jonathan is a warlock and his uncle’s best friend and next door neighbor Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) is a witch. He also learns that all magic isn't bad but there is a dark history of black magic in this house that has yet to be discovered.
From horror director Eli Roth comes a Harry Potter-esque tale of witches and warlocks as adapted from the 1973 teen novel by author John Bellairs. It’s a juvenile fantasy with horror themes befittingly similar to the recent Goosebumps theatrical release that also stars Jack Black. This House with a Clock in Its Walls is a perfect place to bring your preteen just in time for Halloween. A garden of attacking Jack-o’-lanterns and a collection of would be killer dolls give this PG rated kids movie from the dark mind of one of horrors most notorious directors a truly eerie but family friendly feel.
Visually the heavily CGI film isn’t without flaws but overall it pulls off the animated magic. Casting is near perfect. Cate Blanchett is astonishing visually and in her performance. Young Owen Vaccaro impresses in a lead role in only in his seventh film. While much like Will Ferrell in his over-eccentricities, Jack Black can often be a take him or leave him actor. Jonathan Barnavelt is the perfect idiosyncratic character to fit the actor's personality. Even young Sunny Suljic is cast well as best friend and bully Tarby. This child actor first stood out to me as the only realistic character in the pretentious The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
Having not read the book I thought this was the next family fantasy series to attempt to capitalize on the success of other books that have been made into films like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter. Rest assured this juvenile fantasy novel will be fun for both parent and child alike becoming another family friendly movie to watch this Halloween.
Available Now in Theaters
3 out of 5 Headless Critics