‘The House with a Clock in Its Walls’ surprises in a good way


Lewis (Owen Vacarro, center) with his uncle, Jonathan (Jack Black, right) and the neighbor witch, Florence (Cate Blanchett, left) in “The House With a Clock in Its Walls”. Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Director Eli Roth puts his horror background to good use by venturing into whatever dark pit Jack Black’s career has been in and temporarily digs him out for “The House with a Clock in Its Walls”.

It’s surprising to see the guy that directed “The Green Inferno” direct a family movie. Eli Roth has done a great job of making something that appeals to a wide range of ages. Jack Black and Cate Blanchett work great off of each other, as the two leads, and they add a lot of charm to the film.

Having a movie with a child actor alongside recognizable names like this is always a gamble. Owen Vaccaro’s performance starts out a little bland, but he manages to become tolerable after a while. I wouldn’t say he’s a highlight of the movie, he doesn’t take anything away either.

The story is pretty simple. Jack Black and Cate Blanchett live in a magic house and inside is a clock that can bring about the end of the world. The house itself is a bit of a character on its own. It doesn’t talk, but the mysteries and creatures inside it make it feel alive.

It’s weird that after Jack Black was in that terrible “Goosebumps” movie he does something like this which feels like what that movie was supposed to be. Making horror palatable to kids without making it too comical is difficult. It’s unlikely that this movie will scare any adults or teenagers, but it can be pretty menacing for something that’s rated PG.

There are some moments in the movie where the humor falls flat. That’s one of the things that’s going to make it harder for people over a certain age to sit through the film. Those moments are thankfully few and far between. It’s also nice to see Jack Black give a performance where he’s not overly goofy or trying too hard to seem quirky and weird. That’s kind of become his trademark over the years and it’s been harmful to him for a long time. He’s still cracking jokes and acting strange, but it’s more subdued than usual.

The marketing for this movie doesn’t make it seem like anything special. That being said, it’s worth taking a chance on this. It won’t win over most adults the way a lot of Disney and Pixar movies do. Even so, this film does a lot of things right and not many things wrong. “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” is a pleasant surprise worthy of four stars.

[Final Score: 4/5]

Ulises Duenas can be reached at [email protected] or @OrionUlisesD on Twitter.