The House with a Clock in its Walls
Cast: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro and Kyle MacLachlan
Director: Eli Roth
Running time: 115 Minutes
Out December 19th
A brilliant book but an average transformation to the screen is the way to sum up this attempt to copy moments from the Harry Potter franchise. Unfortunately it doesn’t reach any comparison. Director Eli Roth’s new movie is set in the mid-1950s and based on the 1973 novel by John Bellairs, which was a charmingly quaint and eerie supernatural mystery about grief, necromancy, and the apocalypse. The movie version goes more for shady jokes and CGI.
“The House with a Clock in its Wall” follows the supernatural adventures of a young boy as he learns the art of magic. The movie’s protagonist Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) is sent to live with his eccentric uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) following his parents’ death, however there is a question mark over his mother. (Spoiler) Jonathan lives in a large and beautiful Victorian home that is chock full with clocks, and he keeps a heap of Halloween Pumpkins on the front porch year-round. It doesn’t take long for the very smart 10 year old Lewis to realise that his uncle is a warlock and his next door neighbor Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) is also a witch and both are obsessed with finding and destroying the clock somewhere in a wall in the house.
They briefly try to keep the danger from Lewis, who’s more interested in trying to make friends at his new school where he finds nothing but trouble because he insists on wearing a set of goggles over his head. This is his tribute to his favourite television show Captain Midnight (known in Australia as Jet Jackson). As the bullies persue him he connects briefly with a popular, scrappy little kid named Tarby (Sunny Suljic), whose broken arm is keeping him off the sports field. But Lewis’ desperation to be liked pushes him toward a terrible decision with literally world-threatening consequences. Lewis finally discovers there is a powerful clock hidden within the walls of Jonathan’s house.
It was put there by the previous owner, a warlock by the name of Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan), who died while conducting rituals on dark magic. Naturally, Jonathan is determined to find this clock (spoiler, can’t tell you why) and things get a bit wonky after Lewis stumbles upon a book that tells him how to raise the dead. You can see where this is going. Jack Black gives a good performance although he’s not my cup of tea, especially when we see him as a baby with an adult head (weird).
He is complimented by Cate Blanchett’s performance as Florence. She looks totally uninterested throughout the film, but still shines in every scene she does. Their casual name-calling and friendly disdain for each other is one of the highlights of the film.
Owen Vaccaro now 13, playing Lewis, is a real find and we will see plenty more of him in the future, this could have been so much better but does have its moments.