The House with a Clock in it's Walls review
Though I consider myself a man who is always looking to moving forward, there is something about the old world that I do miss; the art of the house. While there are architects and designers who will build modern homes, they are meant for those that can afford the big and lavish. I'm talking about the old manor style homes with deep wood and darker colors that invoke more mystery then fear. This is what I think people, especially kids, are drawn to when they see an old home as "haunted". It's not just filled with ghosts, but the home itself is a ghost; a reminder of a world they can never live in.
The house, however, is only half the equation to a good fantasy. It still needs to contain something that’s going to draw people's interest. Sometimes it's ghosts and sometimes it’s a living human who's just as mysterious as the house. Even in the most suburban of neighborhoods, there is at least one home that becomes something of legend. Today's film surrounds a creepy home with an eccentric person that lives there. Let's see what Eli Roth (yep, that Eli Roth) can conjure up in The House with a Clock in it's Walls.
In the early 1950's, young Lewis (played by Owen Vaccaro) is sent to live with his uncle after the death of his parents. His uncle Jonathan (played by Jack Black) picks him up and takes him to his old manor home, which like for most kids, comes off as threatening and intimidating with it's dark paintings, statues, and endless amounts of rooms. It' doesn't help that eccentric neighbor Florence (played by Cate Blanchett) is Jonathan's closest friend and is often over to visit. Oh, and at night, Lewis constantly hears Jonathan footsteps within the halls, even late at night.
It's not long before Lewis follows Jonathan to see what's going on. It turns out that Jonathan is a warlock (or a "boy witch" as Lewis calls it). Upon seeing real magic, Lewis asks to learn it and his uncle agrees to teach him. Lewis starts to learn spells, a variety of powers, pretty much anything that other kids would be jelous of. At the same time, everyone in the house keeps hearing a clock ticking in the walls with the hourly gongs happening less frequently. No one knows what happens when the clock will strike one, but Jonathan, Florence, and Lewis are determined to uncover the secret.
What's interesting is that the director's position was given to Eli Roth, whose more famous for his gore-fest horror movies. The House with a Clock in it's Wallsseems more like a Steven Spielberg movie (it's even made under the Amblin Entertainment production label). While the premise of a boy learning magic is close to Harry Potter, this does have it's own tone and style. Does it all mesh together? Sort of.
The movie's overall look and design is very cool. I'm a sucker for the "arts and crafts" style that the house has a long with it's decoration and other elements like a painted star celling and a collection of mechanical dolls. This is something I'd love to explore in real life. I even like the main character whose the witness and explorer of the home. He's just as curios as the audience is as we traverse deeper into the heart to figure out it's history.
As I sat in the theater, I kept wondering why this wasn't grabbing me like my inner child would like to do so. I think it has to do with the fact that Eli Roth was more interested in the set and scenery then his charecters. Jack Black knows how to carry the more mysterious nature of his warlock character and can even be intimidating at times. It just took me out of it everytime he tried to hammy it up for the camera. H e would have been a more effective character had he played it straight instead of comedic. The other problem is the pacing. There's a lot of effort put into the backstories of the child, the uncle the neighbor, and the house. But because the movie is more focused on building his skills in magic, were never given time to sink in the more emotional moments, like as if everything is on fast-forward.
I'll give this three painted star fields out of five. The best way to describe this is while I don't think I'd recommend it for myself, I think a lot of families will get into this. It still does has it's collection of magic and monsters (even if the CGI is mediocre) that's more spooky then a typical kids movie. While I think there's more heart and terror in Coraline or ParaNorman, I don't have any problems with children getting into this. I just think there's little for the adults. I think that while kids should like this fine, the parents will want to look elsewhere fore magic.