Think back now. To a time where Jack Black made good films. It was a while ago, wasn’t it. Of late he has just been involved in dogs like The Polka King, Goosebumps, Bad Bromance, and The Big Year. Then there seemed to be a little bit of a rebound with films like Kung Fu Panda 3 and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. But then he comes crashing back down to Earth with a film that is a disappointment like the lengthy titled, The House With a Clock in Its Walls.
After the death of his parents, young Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro – Daddy’s Home, Mother’s Day) is shipped off to Michigan to live with his uncle, Jonathan Barnavelt (Jack Black – School of Rock, Kung Fu Panda). Soon after the move and while still adjusting to his new environment and reality, Lewis uncovers the fact that his uncle is a warlock. Now his world becomes centered around magic.
Part of what he has to get used to is the fact that magic is not something that only people with good intentions are involved in. Lewis learns of an evil wizard named Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan – from television’s Twin Peaks), who wants to bring about the Apocalypse just to see what that would mean. In order to have that happen, Izard has built a black magic clock which counts down to the time that will signal the beginning of the Apocalypse. To keep the clock safe he has hidden it in his house.
Uncle Jonathan now lives in that house. He along with his young nephew and Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett – Carol, Elizabeth) try to find the location of the clock before Izard’s wife, Selena (Renee Elise Goldsberry – Sisters), does or it reaches the time of the Apocalypse.
Kids will love it, but anyone with more discriminating taste (and the gumption to use their brain while watching a film) will have plenty of trouble with Eli Roth’s (The Green Inferno, Hostel) film. It is an intriguing change of pace for Roth in that he has usually been involved in horror type films especially via his association with Raw Nerve, a horror film production company. This is meant to be a family film though there certainly is a dark side to it. So, be warned that there are some moments that might be too scary for the smallest members of your family.
Adults are certainly not the target audience here and as such I always hesitate to pan a film that clearly wasn’t meant for me. That being said, if this is meant to be entertainment for the entire family Mr. Roth et al. seem to have forgotten the adults in the formula. There is nothing really for us to enjoy here. You won’t think it the worst film you have seen, but it most certainly will not make your 10 best films of the year list either.
As for Jack Black this is a good type of role for him. Quirky, odd and allowing him to venture deep into his over the top side. Though, as he often does, he goes to that scenery munching well a touch too often for my liking. He should have taken a glance over to his co-star and acting goddess Cate Blanchett. She gives a good lesson for actors on how to take on a grandiose character without making it too much. As a result her Florence is probably my favourite character in the movie.
Visually the film is rather delightful and engaging. Though on the odd occasion there is a blip…meaning the CGI will let the story down a little. It thankfully does not happen to often, though.