The House with a Clock in Its Walls - 2018
Director(s): Eli Roth
Writer(s): Eric Kripke (screenplay) / John Bellairs (novel)
Cinematography by: Rogier Stoffers
Editor(s): Andrew S. Eisen and Fred Raskin
Cast: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Kyle MacLachlan, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Colleen Camp, Sunny Suljic and Lorena Izzo
I’m a sucker when it comes to anything Jack Black does. I grew up listening Tenacious D and watching every single comedy he starred in. However, the trailers made this movie look, well, bad, and that, tied to the fact that director Eli Roth has never done anything outside of horror movies, made me have a bit of trepidation, but I was still slightly excited to watch Black give it his best as he always does. Walking out of the movie I was pleasantly surprised at how charming and entertaining it turned out to be and how it’s probably the best family movie currently in theaters. Let’s talk about.
The story centers around the young orphan Lewis Barnavelt (Vaccaro) and how he is dropped into a magical world he never knew existed. His new caretaker Jonathan Barnavelt (Black), an uncle he has never met before, lives in a house full of magic and mystery that leads them down a path of unlocking an evil plan set in motion by the previous owner. Together they must stop this plan as the previous owner is dead-set in seeing it through. The story is straightforward - it won’t catch you with any surprises or twists - and it’s not really something we haven’t seen before, but the execution and the sense of wonder that oozes through the screen elevates it and make it worth your time. The movie felt like it was filmed in the set of 1950’s Back to the Future, as it had that movie set quality of what Hollywood romantically remembered of that time. This just added to the overall charm of the movie.
I was surprised to see that Roth was directing a family movie, and even though he snuck in some horror elements with the make-up and the creatures, he really felt committed in executing the vision of the source material. This is the most restrained and yet stylistic feature of Roth’s resume, a director that I’ve never really liked that much as all his previous endeavors felt gratuitous and underwhelming. The set decoration was wonderful as the house felt like a character of its own, and the wardrobe team did a wonderful job establishing a look and feel for all the characters, specially Blanchett’s. The score and sound design mixed in the ticking of the clock very well and it was a constant reminder of what’s to come and added a bit of tension.
Jack Black was wonderful as the eccentric uncle that is forced to be the parental figure he never thought he would be. Black’s charisma shines through as he is set on making his nephew happy despite the horrible situation he is going through. The chemistry he displayed with Blanchett was palpable as they traded insults back and forth and they displayed their affection and respect for each other. Blanchett, perfect as always, got to once again showcase she is an underrated comedic performer and gave a lot of heart and humanity to her character. It was nice to see Kyle MacLachlan as the bad guy, since he always plays the goofy good guy, but I would’ve loved it if he was given the chance to ham it up a bit. Owen Vaccaro as the lead was fine, despite having a few key scenes where he felt out of his depth, but with kid actors you tend to be a bit more forgiving.
The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a fine family movie that will have something for everyone. While it’s geared more towards the kids, as it should, its charm and wonder is enough to sweep the parents along for the ride. With great performances by Black and Blanchett and a great, albeit surprising, directorial eye from Roth, the world feels rich and real, wanting the audience to live and breathe the magical streets they took us down on. With a box office depleted of family friendly entertainment, this is a welcome addition to anyone looking to take the kids out to the movies. Jack Black is why I love movies,
The House with a Clock in Its Walls is currently playing in theaters. Family fun!
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