Review: The House with a Clock in its Walls

The House with a Clock in its Walls manages to delight all ages with its great cast. Photo courtesy of

The House with a Clock in its Walls manages to delight all ages with its great cast.
Photo courtesy of

Black, Blanchett, and Vaccaro deliver

Eli Roth’s The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a comedic, action-packed thriller that captures the fun and entertaining side of magical fantasy. Starring Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, and Owen Vaccaro, Roth brings a visually enchanting and surprisingly hilarious romp that’s perfect for Halloween to the big screen—with a few life lessons thrown in for good measure. 

Taking place in 1950s North America, 10-year-old Lewis Barnavelt (Vaccaro), moves to live with his Uncle Jonathan (Black) in New Zebedee, Michigan after his parents’ death. In the hopes of starting a new chapter in his young life, Lewis begins to realize that there is more to his new guardian and home than just an eccentric man and a house full of ticking clocks.

Based on the novel by John Bellairs, the film adaptation conveys a much brighter and comedic storyline compared to its dark source material. The House with a Clock in Its Walls balances action, adventure, comedy, romance, and suspense so that no one aspect of any genre overpowers the others. 

Vaccaro plays a child who has just lost his parents in the opening minutes of the film. To start off at such a low point, at least in a kids’ movie, can only mean one thing: a lesson about family and belonging will ensue.

As the mystery unfolds, the dark point in Lewis’ life becomes his greatest weakness and his greatest strength as he gains a new family with his Uncle Jonathan and neighbor Florence (Blanchett). The House with a Clock in Its Walls doesn’t cover any unfamiliar territory, but it’s an enjoyable trek regardless.

The comedic chemistry between Black and Blanchett makes the film both engaging for adults and enjoyable through its familiar narrative beats.

The two are allowed to completely chew the scenery and they make good use of this freedom. They embrace the absurd lines of dialogue, including a scene of poker playing and name calling, which  they perform with the childlike mentalities of a 5-year-old—mostly by making faces at each other.

For a movie that deals with magical entities, action, adventure, and romance, it can be easily compared to the Harry Potter franchise.

Lewis is a stand in for Harry, considering that each seek action and adventure, lose their parents in the opening moments of their individual films and, of course, learn about a hidden world of magic.

Uncle Jonathan plays a Dumbledore-like mentor, and Florence has a persona similar to that of Professor McGonagall.

Yet, the film and its roles are not carbon copies of J. K. Rowling’s fantasy epic. Uncle Jonathan is nowhere near as mature of a guiding force as Dumbledore, and Florence plays it a bit more standoffish and matriarchal than McGonagall.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls exceeds expectations with a well-produced movie that flows smoothly through its genre and tonal juggling act.

Thanks to a talented cast and a touching storyline, it’s an emotional rollercoaster ride from beginning to end.

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