So I’m going to do something a little different with this one, if you readers don’t mind. I’ll give you the general plot synopsis I usually give, but then I’m just going to start listing things about the movie I did or didn’t like. If you don’t want to sit through the rest of this, the long and short of it is that The House with a Clock in its Walls is a tonally inconsistent, immaturely unfunny mess of a film. But I think it’ll be fun to just talk shop about some of the reasons why in a way that doesn’t have me slinging around the usual banalities like “boring characters” or “predictable plot”. Sound good?
The movie follows a young boy named Lewis (Owen Vaccaro), who is sent to live with his Uncle Johnathan (Jack Black) after his parents die in a car crash. Lewis comes to realize that his uncle’s eccentricities are far more than they seem, when he finds out Johnathan is a warlock and the house where he lives is full of magic. The house, once owned by Johnathan’s partner, contains a clock which could spell doom for the world. Thus, Lewis, Johnathan and their witch neighbor Mrs. Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) have to find it before *something something doom something* happens.
- The title of the movie is too long. I know this is out of the control of the filmmakers, because the movie is based on a book, but it’s a mouthful.
- I’m really getting tired of movies wherein the villain(s) believe that the only way to save the world is to kill off all, or most, of the people on it. This instantaneously throws away any sympathy I could possibly have for them, and the villain of this film isn’t nearly interesting enough to have such a dumb plan for “world peace” or whatever.
- There are three, separate “lion-shaped magic shrubbery farts yard waste on things it isn’t supposed to” jokes. Think about the best family movies. I’d hedge my bets they have an exceedingly small amount of flatulatory humor. Fart jokes are low-bar. Making them funny is hard. This movie put in no effort to make theirs anything beyond “haha isn’t a fart funny, kiddos?”
- There is an almost staggeringly low amount of interesting magic in this movie. All of the magic that does happen feels like things I’ve seen in Harry Potter before. No one ever uses magic in a way that I wouldn’t have expected, nor does any of the magic look very inventive. It’s magic. You can do literally anything you want. Get creative with it.
- Jack Black and Cate Blanchett have chemistry, but it is thrown to the side far too often. They are both talented and funny actors, but the film’s poor writing and janky tone issues fail them.
- Scenes start and end out of nowhere. I don’t know if this was a problem in the editing bay or the writers room, but it makes the movie feel piecemeal and sloppy. Nothing that happens has weight, even though the stakes are high, due mostly to the haphazard way in which the film is constructed.
I really hope I see a good movie soon. These are starting to get to me.