Based on the acclaimed 1973 young adult mystery novel by John Bellairs and Edward Gorey, The House with a Clock in Its Walls gets the Hollywood treatment with scaremonger Eli Roth on directing duties, multi-award-winner Cate Blanchett and Jack Black bringing the acting muscle whilst Owen Vaccaro takes the lead as Lewis Barnavelt.
It’s 1955 and following a tragic accident, misfit Lewis must live with his eccentric uncle Jonathan (Black) in his rather curious house. As time goes on, Lewis discovers that all is not as it seems with his uncle, but also with his new home.
A clock hidden within the walls of the mysterious mansion, left by the wicked Warlock Isaac Izard, has been tick-tock tormenting Jonathan for years. The timepiece’s secret is revealed as circumstances conspire and Lewis unwittingly begins the ‘end of days’ and it’s a race against time, literally, to stop that from happening.
Strong performances outweigh a slightly lightweight and repetitive script. The characters do their best to keep the story energised and ticking along at a decent speed, but there are too many moments where not enough happens. The House with a Clock in Its Walls will pass the time pleasantly enough, but could’ve done with being wound up occasionally to stop it from slowing down.
Jack Black is charmingly cuckoo, Cate Blanchett as watchable as she always is and you’ve got to hand it to youngster Owen Vaccaro as he more than holds his own against these two veterans and the three actors have superb chemistry together.
The 12A certificate is fully justified as familiar frightener Eli Roth makes full use of his dark material to create a Hogwarts-esque house. Taking interior design tips from Salazar Slytherin himself the living quarters come complete with moving artwork, its own chamber of secrets and as he brings dastardly dolls to life, sensitive children should probably stay away.
Toilet gags and verbal sparring between the two adults will amuse kids that are brave enough to watch, but may grow tiresome for anyone over the age of 12. Some nice set-pieces are let down by questionable CGI, however if you’ve ever wanted to see Cate Blanchett head-butt a pumpkin, then this is the film for you.