“You’ve told Lewis everything?” asks Mrs. Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett), “Well, not everything,” replies Jonathan Barnavelt (Jack Black) who’s taken in his young nephew, Lewis (Owen Vaccaro), after the death of his parents in the fantasy film The House with a Clock in its Walls.
When Lewis arrives to live with Jonathan he’s feeling lost and misses his family terribly. He begins to feel even worse when he hears from a classmate that his uncle’s house is nicknamed “The Slaughterhouse.” But it’s when Lewis tries to run away that he learns the truth: his uncle is really a warlock and their next-door neighbor, Mrs. Zimmerman, is a witch.
Surprised and excited to learn that magic is real, Lewis begs his uncle to teach him to be a warlock. After a very brief period of resistance, Jonathan gives in and begins to teach Lewis all about magic.
It turns out to be a good move because the house does have a dark secret. An evil warlock owned the house before Jonathan and hid a clock somewhere in the walls. When the clock finally counts down to zero, something terrible will happen. So, it’s up to Jonathan, Lewis, and Mrs. Zimmerman to work together to find the clock and stop it before time runs out.
Directed by Eli Roth, best known for gory horror films including Cabin Fever and Green Inferno, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a silly, and at times creepy, film aimed at children between the ages of seven and 12, with its juvenile humor and simple plot.
Jack Black is his usual comedic and outlandish self, toned down a bit for a PG rating. He portrays Uncle Jonathan as an inept warlock and an even worse uncle. However, his one saving grace is he does truly care about his nephew’s safety. Most of Black’s one-liners, along with the weird faces he makes, should have the younger audience members laughing. Adults will most likely be rolling their eyes.
Cate Blanchett is solid as Mrs. Zimmerman, Jonathan’s best friend and next-door neighbor who quickly begins to care about Lewis and is anxious for him to learn the truth about the house and to master magic. The insulting one-liners Mrs. Zimmerman and Jonathan toss back and forth at each other are perfect examples of the immature writing in the script which shows just what age group the film is definitely targeting.
The special effects, set design, and look of the film are unimpressive and the tone gets far too dark at times for its core audience.
The House with a Clock in Its Walls sadly never creates the wonder and excitement of magic that it so clearly yearns to. Feel free to disappear out of the theater to avoid this one.
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements including sorcery, some action, scary images, rude humor and language
Running Time: 104 minutes
Release Date: September 21, 2018
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