FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: Last night, I saw “The House with a Clock in Its Walls,” which stars Jack Black (Nacho Libre, Kung Fu Panda 3), Cate Blanchett (Cinderella , The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), Owen Vaccaro (Daddy’s Home, Mother’s Day), Kyle MacLachlan (Inside Out , Twin Peaks [TV series]), Renée Elise Goldsberry (One Life to Live [TV series], Sisters), Colleen Camp (Clue, Wayne’s World), Sunny Suljic (The Killing of the Sacred Deer, Mid90s), Lorenza Izzo (Life Itself, Feed the Beast [TV series]), and Vanessa Anne Williams (Dynasty [2017 TV series]). It is directed by Eli Roth (Death Wish, Knock Knock), with the screenplay being written by Eric Kripke (Supernatural [TV series], Timeless [TV series]). Based on a novel, this film follows a young boy named Lewis (Vaccaro) who goes to live with his warlock of an uncle Jonathan (Black) after his parents die in a car accident. Magic ensues and dark secrets unfold, as something treacherous within the house walls is afoot.
The last Friday of the year and it had to be spent on a Jack Black flick set in the 50s… Don’t get me wrong, I love Jack Black. He’s an entertaining, talented performer who’s starred in some of my childhood favorites (“Nacho Libre,” “School of Rock,” “Kung Fu Panda”). However, “The House with a Clock in its Walls” is unfortunately a dud of a flick. Could we end the review there? Who do you think I am? Let’s dive into this thing. The first thing you would notice when watching “The House with a Clock” is how it’s set in the 50s. The clothes, the cars, the atmosphere in general pops with the elegance of such an interesting era of time, but there’s something missing… oh yeah, the characters hardly act like they live in the 50s. No, they don’t question why there aren’t iPhones in their hands, but they also don’t talk as if they’re from their time either. Jack Black acts as… well, Jack Black. Most of what he says (certain nuances) would probably not have been said back then, and the same goes for quite a bit of these characters. Every era has its specific slang; you don’t have to make a generalization of the time when writing for these characters, but you also can’t be absent-minded of how people would act. Everyone carried themselves as they would in this time, and quite frankly I could’ve seen this story set in the present day with hardly any conflict (if it weren’t for the backstory of the bad guy and Cate Blanchett’s character, of course). But, that was merely the first problem I saw with this flick, ladies and gentlemen. It’s not like “The House with a Clock” is a horrendous picture plagued with issues, for it is really just a big pile of nothing that doesn’t do much for me as a viewer. What’s the big problem it faces? It doesn’t know what it wants to be. There are moments where “The House with a Clock” comes off as an old school picture, moments where it feels like “Goosebumps” (the latest also starring Mr. Black), and moments where it is just downright bizarre (there’s a big lion-shaped hedge that craps out leaves in various scenes). I didn’t know what style Eli Roth had when crafting this film, as it felt like a hodgepodge of everything yet affirming itself of nothing. These characters are warlocks, and their time is devoted to Lewis trying to make friends with this kid named Tarby (what kind of name is that?) and Jack Black trying to find the stinking clock in his wall. Of course, finding the clock in the wall is the central conflict of the movie, however most character development outside of this is shaky. The dynamic between Lewis and Tarby was downright confusing. Tarby was kind of Lewis’ friend, then he wasn’t, yet they still hung out. I couldn’t flip heads or tails why the heck the filmmakers spent so much time on these two, it was by far the weakest part of the story, besides the villain’s plan (if you were to listen to it, you’d question who in their right mind would think it’ll benefit the bad guy… unless they were just pure evil, muahahaha). I really didn’t care much for what took place on-screen. While it’s visually a beautiful feature, it lacks in strong characters and story direction. The plot just kind of unfolds listlessly, going from one point to the next while dashing in a few odd moments here and there to mix things up. I guess you could say I was entertained at parts; I certainly didn’t grow restless. The atmosphere is of a magical house filled with a lot of fun stuff to look at and explore, but there’s also not much that separates it from magical places I’ve seen in other movies (“Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium,” any “Harry Potter” film). The performances weren’t that bad, but also not noteworthy either. Cate Blanchett was the best of the bunch, primarily because she didn’t act like herself (I love Jack Black, but he could’ve at least put a twist on his role). I didn’t mind Owen Vaccaro in the main role, though I wouldn’t say he is a Haley Joel Osment. He did his part and played it fine; that’s all there is to say. Overall, “The House with a Clock in its Walls” is a meh kind of feature; easily forgettable as it doesn’t offer much. Which is a shame because it looked to be a unique picture by the trailers. If you’re looking for something fun, I’d turn to something else. FINAL SCORE: 61%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer: