The House with a Clock in its Walls is masterfully nostalgic; director Eli Roth reignites the forgotten appreciation Millennials have for Jack Black. Even though the film is technically created for kids, I was on the edge of my seat throughout the movie. The film is based on a mystery fiction novel written by John Bellairs in 1973. The House with a Clock in its Walls certainly pays homage to the book in its own unique ways, however books are rarely fully realized when adapted to the big screen. The story is not quite the same as the book, but the movie makes up for that with polished special effects, great acting, and multi-generational humor. The movie is reminiscent of such films like A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Golden Compass, and even Goosebumps.
Lewis Bernavelt (Owen Vaccaro) is a recently orphaned 10 year old who moves to the fictional town of New Zebedee, Michigan to live with his uncle Jonathan (Jack Black). His uncle happens to be a warlock with a best friend, Mrs. Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett), who is a powerful witch. This hodgepodge of characters form a makeshift family on a mission to do one thing, find a way to stop the doomsday clock left by an earlier tenant of the house!
The first notable thing about the film is the casting, Jack Black does an amazing job in his role as the creepy, misunderstood uncle. This role is the Jack Black we’ve come to expect to see on screen through and through; he creates such an interesting character within the storyline, it’s hard to look away. Owen Vaccaro steals the show with his ability to cry on cue, competency with linguistics, and charming character. He is the typical nerdy, misunderstood kid, but he certainly proves himself time and time again. Finally, sure to be a character favorite (she was mine) is Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett), the platonic friend of Jack Black; their friendship is hilarious and wonderful. They truly care about each other as friends but they don’t waste a moment without dishing out a good insult towards one another. Overall, the acting truly carries the film, and the relationships between all of the actors feels genuine, adding to their creativity.
Alongside the quarrels and quips between characters, the storyline is incredibly intriguing. The plot is solid and engaging, yet you can never assume what will happen next. The House with a Clock in its Walls is a story that cannot be forgotten (not recommended for kids under age 8), and yet it is filled with humor for different generations. At one point during the screening I saw, an audience member nearby noted out loud that there were more adults laughing at the jokes within the audience than kids which truly speaks to the talent behind the writing by Eric Kripke. As was mentioned before, the character interactions are incredible, and the writing can partially be thanked for this. The actors are able to create palpable, genuine relationships on screen with the dialogue; some of the most impressive acting came from Owen Vaccaro, simply because of the way he “used his words,” (this is even commented on within the film).
The House With a Clock on it's Walls uses a variety of cinematic elements to give an entertaining final product. The production of the film is well thought out, the creativity shines, and the plot doesn’t falter. The dedication of the actors alongside the great writing help make these characters memorable. As stated earlier, the film is incredibly nostalgic for Millennials; it relates to so many movies in the past that are now reminiscent of our childhood. Hopefully, Jack Black’s role sparks the same sentimental value for the next generation that he created in past films like School of Rock; this film definitely has potential to become a Jack Black cult classic.