In just one month, it will be time to hand candy out to kids at your door wearing cheap costumes. It will be time to put on a creative costume of your own you worked hard on for months. It will be time to pull out the Halloween classics: Hocus Pocus, The Nightmare Before Christmas, cheesy slasher films, just to name a few. Those seasonal favorites are admittedly low in artistic quality, and The House with a Clock in Its Walls is no exception as it takes a similar tone to the numerous quirks of Halloween-ish children’s entertainment. Yet despite this completely ridiculous plot reliant on gags over sensical situations, a decade or two from now a cult following could very well be picked up amongst a full generation!
*Gasp,* what?! I’m seriously recommending a movie I gave a low grade to?!
Listen, I was ready to hate this goofy family entertainment much like I did A Wrinkle in Time, but for some outlandish reason, I found a soft spot for this flawed motion picture despite the MANY unmotivated performances that lowered the quality. I somehow don’t mind the bad acting and dialogue, because the twistedly magical artistic scale so strongly amplifies the size of the orphan protagonist, Lewis’s new teeny tiny house. In his new home, he along with his uncle (Jack Black) and neighbor (Cate Blanchett) must embrace a common concept of being the family’s black swan, since they each share a weirdness outside their front porch adorned with jack-o-lanterns. With trusty goggles, Lewis takes on an indominable insect virtue, his little ant size made smaller by the mundane brown hues of his school. But that’s still quite tame compared to a climactic lunar eclipse that eventually casts a giant blood red tint across the screen to tear down all life.
It’s certainly a wicked sense of cinematic appeal, but this glamorous fantasy also beautifies witchcraft, even giving a tutorial of blood payment that shows young minds how cultic practices works. At a more personal level, some of the more tasteless jokes include lingering on one slow boy on crutches in gym class, who gets lightly mocked, “good hustle” by the coach. Thus, viewer discretion is advised.
But hey, at least it’s funny as expected, once Jack Black pulls out a saxophone solo, dogs start howling while his live griffin bush covers its ears. Then that griffin bush, as if it were the family cat, poops into the backyard pond against its master’s orders, which sounds gross, but personally got a decent laugh out of me. But this mock Addams Family also stays grounded into reality with the appropriate 1950s tunes, until the heartbeats behind the moonlit walls tick-tock to set off the inner adrenaline. It’s a nice balance between funny filler guaranteed to entertain kids, and fun unsettlement from the perspective of a poor little orphan.
Yet despite the frightening imagery, it’s very unlikely that kids will relate to this style over substance experience. The boys have Lewis to connect with, who doesn’t have that much of a personality anyway, but the girls have no characters to relate to except one pointless girl from Lewis’ school who is around for approximately three scenes. She’s also one of the worst actors in the film, almost like they brought out a crew member’s daughter last minute. The adults are not out of the clear in being easily relatable either, as none of the veteran actors receive proper direction to be anything but doofuses. Case in point: there is a montage that forces Jack Black to levitate, which is admittedly a funny scene, but the wires he dangles on are obvious to notice, much like Winona Ryder “levitating” at the very end of Beetlejuice. Then there’s the main villain, whose idea of an evil plot is to wipe out humans forever… that’s it. Stupid, I know.
The cast members simply can’t enlighten the awful screenplay, since when the writing doesn’t abuse plot driven exposition through film reels, it implants bothersome name-calling between Jack and Cate that concludes its arc with a tossed around sense of heart. Now Cate, I particularly detested in this feature, she is supposedly written to be a “new” mother figure to Lewis but can’t generate sincere drama with a voice of reason. However, Cate still doesn’t annoy as much as Owen Vaccaro as Lewis, who overacts to force everyone’s attention on him, screaming loud enough to crack cement. He doesn’t even give a hint of emotion to hearing that this new uncle he’s living with has complete freedom of house rules. These visions he has at night of his dead mother are particularly hard to watch, as the actress playing her just stares at what seems like a total stranger, not who is supposedly her own son. Yeah, unfortunately, aside from Jack Black (who even then is mediocre at best), I have virtually nothing nice to say about any of the actors or actresses in this entire feature.
Despite the fun I had while watching this, understand that it’s still my job to discuss the negative qualities of every film I review. So odds are, you aren’t missing anything with The House with a Clock in Its Walls, but if you’re willing to take a chance, it could very well be the perfect jumpstart to your Halloween!
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!