REVIEW: “A House with a Clock in Its Walls”

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Jonathan Montague, Staff Writer

In a cinematic world full of adaptations and sequels, Hollywood is now reaching for the really obscure for inspiration. As such, we now have the feature film version of a children’s book that even I, avid reader that I am, had never heard of, despite them releasing installments up until 2008. “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” was a big hit upon release back in 1973. Will it see the same success on the silver screen? I certainly hope so.

The narrative follows the young Lewis Barnavelt, a studious boy, recently orphaned, as he arrives in New Zebedee to live with his eccentric uncle Jonathan. As he starts to adjust, he discovers the mystical nature of both his new home and Jonathan himself, who is a warlock. Resolving to become a warlock himself, Lewis must now work with his uncle and their magical neighbor, Mrs. Zimmerman, to combat the return of the former master of the house, the wicked Issac Izard, who hid a mysterious clock in the walls of the mansion that could be ticking down to Doomsday.

What makes this film work is the abundance of charm it has. The characters are so likable and genuine that you’ll fall in love with them easily. Everyone in the movie has a good backstory to flesh them out as well, including the sinister Issac. The film also has the right amount of magic and whimsy to mesh well with the scarier parts of the movie. The creepy parts are just scary enough for its target audience but still carry a lot of charm. It finds the perfect balance.

No one in this movie phones in their performances. Jack Black and Cate Blanchett work really well together and have excellent friendly chemistry. Kyle MacLachlan is delightfully sinister as is to be expected from someone who clearly has enjoyed quite a few villain roles in his career. Owen Vacarro makes a great transition to the role of breakout star with an excellent performance for his age.

This movie works hard to recreate the 50s with as much love as they can muster. Even beyond that, the costuming and makeup look excellent for the more magical characters, helping to create a beautifully layered world within their world.

“The House with a Clock in Its Walls” is the “Goosebumps” of this year, providing fun for the whole family and some decent frights for the young ones. I recommend anyone, child or adult, to catch this adaptation done right. It is truly indomitable.