“The House with a Clock in Its Walls” stars Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sunny Suljic, and Kyle MacLachlan. Released on September 21, 2018, the film is about an orphan who teams up with his uncle and a witch to search for a magic clock that’s hidden inside the house.
The film is directed by Eli Roth, who also directed films such as “Cabin Fever”, “Hostel”, “The Green Inferno”, and “Knock Knock”. It is based on the 1973 children’s novel of the same name by John Bellairs. The kids may be back at school already, but that doesn’t mean a slew of family-friendly projects will go by unnoticed, including this latest fantasy book-to-film adaptation. Eli Roth has been known for showcasing explicit violence onscreen, most notably in the horror genre, but his next project sees him attempting to recreate the sense of imagination and adventure that most of the family classics from the 1980s are known for. Seeing that it is produced by Amblin Entertainment, this should be an easy task for him to accomplish. Hopefully he can get the job done without making it too violent for the kids.
Set in the 1950s, the story follows a ten-year-old orphan named Lewis Barnavelt (Vaccaro) who is sent to live in a creepy old house with his uncle Jonathan (Black), who happens to be a warlock. When Lewis’ attempt to make new friends results in an accidental revival of a sinister warlock known as Isaac Izard (MacLachlan), he and Jonathan, along with his next-door neighbor Florence (Blanchett), must use all of the magic they have to prevent Isaac from bringing about the end of the world. While the film is aimed towards families due to its PG rating, it doesn’t shy away from showcasing its dark fantasy elements, such as the creepy atmosphere and the frightening images that may or may not haunt your kids in their nightmares. Luckily, Eli Roth knew how to balance the kid-friendly frights with some healthy doses of comedy to make it more fitting for its target audience. Even though the blend is not 100% perfect, Roth never lost sight at maintaining the imaginative spark that made the family-friendly films from the 80s, like "E.T.", so memorable and endearing. Unfortunately, the story has plenty of rusty gears that may prevent it from becoming a timeless treasure, such as its predictable and uninspired plot points and a couple of pacing issues, but it was entertaining enough to keep itself ticking until the very end. From the looks of the cast, it looked like they were having a fun time portraying their characters. Jack Black proves once again that he never lost his comedic touch. Although he came close to being as hilarious as he was in “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”, he offered a suitable amount of charisma and heart to make his character likable. His undeniable chemistry with Blanchett also helped drive the film due to their characters' personalities and funny dialogue. Owen Vaccaro (known for his role in “Daddy’s Home” and its sequel) also did a nice job portraying Lewis. It’s not his strongest performance I’ve seen so far, but based on how he did, I have a feeling that he’ll wind up surprising me in the near future. I would also give Roth some credit for envisioning the film’s creepy atmosphere and keeping the tone consistent while doing so. Despite the fact that it didn’t deliver a lot of scares for me, I was amazed by the fact that Roth can make the film fun without the use of torture porn and R-rated violence.
Overall, “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” is more humorous than scary, but it’s also entertaining and imaginative. Eli Roth’s first family-friendly project may not convince every child or adult to join in on the ride in terms of its story and its creepy imagery. However, it had enough appealing moments to please those who want a scary good time at the movies until “Goosebumps 2” comes out. Speaking of which, I wonder if Roth might be interested in reviving the “Goosebumps” television series with R. L. Stine…