Children’s fairy tales have taken a new drift with the film The House with a Clock in Its Walls. Packed with exciting action adventure, the movie, based on the book by John Bellairs, envisions the story with an incredible amount of CGI. You could almost call the film animated, but that’s a good thing here as things go bump in the night, magic forms the basis, and solving the mystery becomes the prominent focus for older youngsters. Orphaned due to a car crash that took his parents, young Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) gets invited to live at his Uncle Jonathan’s (Jack Black) magical mansion. He’s a bit fearful of the old house with its grand stairway and many mysterious rooms, but Lewis sort of likes the flamboyance of the magician turned warlock. There he’s introduced to Jonathan’s neighbor and best friend Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett), who assures Jonathan that he will enjoy living with his uncle.
Uncle Jonathan has only one rule for Lewis: he mustn’t open a special cupboard, ever. Things go well for Lewis until it’s time he attend the local middle school. There he’s the odd man out, as cliques have formed between the boys long before he came there. Surprises abound his new life, and when he helps Tarby (Sunny Suljic), one of the school kids running for class President, he feels he’s finally made a friend. But things are not what they seem to be, and it leads to Lewis breaking the one rule he had promised he wouldn’t.
Director Eli Roth moves the plot along at a fast clip, introducing all the main characters and creating a lot of adventure at every turn at the big house. He takes some of the comedy to the school, showing Lewis’s inability in sports, his awkwardness, and learning valuable life lessons. But most of the fun comes with the old mansion and his Uncle Jonathan, who wants Lewis to accept the things he cannot see and believe the things he does see. Topping off the film with a wild and wacky ending that involves the clock in the wall makes for a lot of enjoyment for youngsters and the young at heart.
In the role of Lewis, Owen Vaccaro gives a very good performance that makes his character work. He’s wide-eyed from the start, adventurous midway through the film, and in the finale he becomes the brave kid who doesn’t give in or give up to Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachian), the meanest adversary he would ever face. You may have seen Owen in Daddy’s Home 1 & 2 as Dylan.
Over-the-top as usual, Jack Black puts his best face forward as the madcap magician/warlock Jonathan Barnavelt. He was ostracized from the family years back because his father did not like him becoming a worthless magician. After a long run in show business, he achieved the supremacy of a warlock, a male witch. Spells are his favorite, and a ball of electricity suits him the best for defense. But when it comes to Lewis, he wants to be the father he no longer has.
The film gets a little spooky at times with strange things appearing out of the walls, paintings that change, and the thing behind special doors. The comedy offsets anything that may be a little scary, and the story gets so engrossing that older kids will enjoy all the magical happenings from start to finish. There’s a massive amount of computer graphics, and the sets are incredible. I’m quite sure that most families will want the Blu-ray when it comes out, but do not miss this on the biggest and best screen you can find at a local theater.
The House with a Clock in Its Walls has been rated PG by the MPAA for thematic elements including sorcery, some action, scary images, rude humor, and language. Being that time of the year with Halloween just around the corner, most kids who have seen films like Monsters Inc. or Goosebumps will welcome this wacky adventure. You may want to show immature children the trailer from the movie so you can gauge their willingness to attend a showing.
A very CGI-jam-packed movie with a LOT of fun things happening. Be cautious when deciding to allow immature children see the film, as it does have some scenes that are inappropriate for youngsters.