When I first heard about The House with a Clock in its Walls, I thought I heard it wrong because it should have been The House with a Clock ON its Walls (grammatically speaking). But as I started the movie, I thought yeah, the title was right after all because at the center of this kids’ movie was the mystery of where in the house a doomsday clock was hidden by an evil warlock who threatens humankind from beyond the grave.
Synopsis: When Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) lost his parents to a car crash, he was invited by his eccentric Uncle Jonathan (Jack Black), his mom’s sister, to come live with him in a giant mansion that looks as weird as his uncle. Soon after, his uncle reveals to him that he is a warlock and that he is looking for a giant clock hidden by the house’s old owner within its walls as a prank. Unknown to Lewis, his uncle and their next door neighbor, Florence (Cate Blanchett) are looking for the clock in fear of what it can do because the warlock who used to live in the house is actually an evil one set to destroy the world before he died.
I went into this movie blind. I didn’t know anything about it watched it on the basis that it was a kids’ movie directed by Hostel and Green Inferno director Eli Roth. I was intrigued by the concept that Roth would be handling something that is not as macabre as his old projects and I’m glad to report that he held his own in this foreign genre. I was doubly interested because its screenplay was written by Supernatural creator Eric Kripke and its always fun to see what he comes up with.
Truthfully, the first 45 minutes of the film was quite boring because the film took its time establishing the setting of the movie. Nothing interesting happens during this time with only the slight attempt to imply that Uncle Jonathan was not as wholesome as he seemed at first. Once that was out of the way and it was revealed what Uncle Jonathan was trying to hide from his nephew, it became a bit more engaging as the magic was introduced.
However, despite the set up of Lewis as a special kid who was smarter than the rest, I was quite disappointed that he fell into the trap of wanting Darby to like him even though the kid smelled like a creep from a mile away. Even more so when he fell for the evil warlock’s tricks too easily. But then again, he was a kid so what should I have expected?
What managed to save Lewis for me was the family dynamic that he was able to establish with his uncle and Florence. Jack Black and Cate Blanchett are polar opposites when it comes to looks and temperament, as with their characters, but they are very fun to watch because their friendship seems very strong and unconditional. When Florence rejects Jonathan’s plea for help, Jonathan simply accepts it without pressuring Florence, automatically understanding her apprehension without question. And even though they try to put each other down, there is a certain level of affection and a common affection for Lewis that they both share.
Ultimately, I was a bit disappointed with Jonathan’s very minimal participation in the final showdown because I expected a lot from him given that he was built up as one of the central characters. While the film wanted to showcase what Lewis can do, I think it would have made more impact if he and Lewis banished Izard together to build a more intricate bond between the two characters.
All in all, Eli Roth managed to sate his penchant for blood and gore with pumpkins that spewed out their crushed insides and a decaying evil wizard who had rotten teeth, although it was not as his usual level of horror. Overall, the CGI was good and the magic was there too that would keep children and adults alike entertained for its 1 hour and 45 minute run. Its a good adaptation of the 1973 book by Jonathan Bellairs but I wouldn’t say that this was my favorite kids’ movie. Still, it was a passable one.