House With A Clock In Its Walls
The Gothic teen novel was first published in 1973, by John Bellairs,
who died in 1991. But it's
brought to the big screen because of the wild popularity of magic themes
targeting youth audiences (such as the “Harry Potter” series).
This one, too, features a little boy, Lewis (Owen Vaccaro), who
loses his parents and is sent off to live with an Uncle he barely knows.
In this case, though, Uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) is not a bad guy,
he's just a little weird. And
so is the house he lives in, with clocks all over the walls, and creepy
decorations throughout. Uncle
Jonathan seems to have one friend in the world, the next door neighbor
Mrs. Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett). She
seems kind, but she, too, is a little strange, and subject to sibling-type
exchange of insults with Uncle Jonathan.
Lewis' experiences in his new school don't turn out so well.
There's one kid who tries a little to befriend him, but only
because he sidelined from athletics with a cast on his arm.
The minute he's better and can play with the other boys again, he
doesn't want anything to do with Lewis, whom he considers strange with his
bowties and goggles. (Actually, what's strange about the school sequences
is seeing harmonious integration in 1955, and for that matter, in the town
restaurants, as well. It may
be the moviemaker's idea of an idyllic past, but it doesn't feel very
Lewis gradually discovers that his Uncle Jonathan is more than a
little strange, he's a warlock, that is, a male witch.
He knows magic, which he dismisses as “parlor tricks,” but
Lewis senses there's much more here. Uncle
Jonathan gives him lots of dusty old tomes to read, thinking that will
dampen Lewis' enthusiasm, but instead it stokes his interest in practicing
Of course there's a bad guy, who turns out to be the previous
occupant of the house, who died the year before, but has left a ticking
clock within the walls of the house, that is counting down to a strange
kind of doomsday, where time will go backwards until the world starts over
Lewis gets in over his head with attempting to delve into magic,
sometimes comically, and other times it's not so funny.
Lewis misses his Mom so much that she makes nocturnal appearances
in his bedroom, which both comforts him and distresses him.
He kind of gets used to the weird furnishings in the house, until
they start attacking him. Some
of these scarier elements might be too intense for younger children.
Since it's a movie aimed at kids, we can't seem to escape the
flatulence jokes, but that seems to be Director Eli Roth's way of
interjecting humor. And
there's a considerable sag in the middle, after we've introduced the
characters, and before we resolve the tension in the story.
Nonetheless, for those who would enjoy something
uniquely creative, and a little bit dark, this one is weirdly