After releasing the R-rated Death Wish remake, filmmaker Eli Roth, who is usually known for making gory horror flicks such as Cabin Fever and Hostel, has instead decided to make a family film called The House with a Clock in Its Walls. You have to commend the director for wanting to try something new in his career, but let’s not forget that there’s a difference between potential and reality. Based on the 1973 novel written by John Bellairs, 10-year-old orphan Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) goes to live with his uncle named Jonathan (Jack Black), but then discovers that the house he’s going to live in is a little strange. He then learns the bizarre truth that his eccentric uncle is in fact a warlock, and his life is now changed forever.
Let’s start with the good things first, which is the fact that the cast is actually the best part of the entire film. Jack Black clearly has a lot of fun with his character, and he’s able to bring some chuckles at times. He is known to be a humorous guy, but surprisingly he also has what it takes to portray some serious moments. However, Cate Blanchett is the one who steals the show. She’s the most interesting character, and has great chemistry with Jack Black. Owen Vaccaro does a good job as the main protagonist Lewis, but he doesn’t stand out. That’s not a bad thing, but there are times his performance is a little bland. At least he tries his best, and that’s the most important part.
Since Eli Roth is recognized to be a horror filmmaker, he still does an efficient job making it feel creepy sometimes, even if he knows that it’s made for families. But the main problem with the movie is that it’s pretty predictable and dull at times. Also, the set-up in the beginning takes a long time to build, and it drags the pacing. You understand that it has to take its time to introduce this magical world to the audience, but you still wish the movie would keep going, while not feeling bored. When it’s taking place at Lewis’ school, it’s quite tedious, and you don’t really care. Another major flaw is that the main villain feels uninspired, and lacks a lot of character development. He just shows up at the last act with a clichéd motivation of wanting to destroy the world. When it wants to introduce you to the main antagonist, it should be a big thing, but it lacks the tension to make the story more interesting.
Kids will enjoy The House with a Clock in Its Walls as a fun fantasy film, but parents might find it dull at times. It’s not groundbreaking or anything, as it just wants to be a mildly entertaining popcorn flick made for families. This is Eli Roth’s first attempt at making a family film, and it’s not bad. Just seeing the cast have a good time with their performances is worth seeing, but other than that, it’s nothing special.
The House with a Clock in its Walls is now playing in theatres.