BEIRUT: Whenever a film sneaks into the movie theater with barely a whisper, it usually means studio execs don’t necessarily have a lot of faith in the project.
This is what appears to be the issue with THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS, a long-winded title, tells the spine-tingling tale of ten-year-old Lewis Barnavelt who goes to live with his eccentric uncle in a creaky old house with a mysterious clock in its walls.
But his new town’s sleepy façade jolts to life with a secret world of warlocks and witches when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead.
Though the premise, which is adapted from what seems to be a beloved novel from 1973 written by John Bellairs, sounds like a fun tale with potential spooks and fun scares – its execution, unfortunately, falls flat.
Screenwriter and producer Eric Kripke, a fan of the original novel, pens the screenplay, and though his television series hits on proper emotional beats and character arcs, this film does not.
What should have clearly been an episode of SUPERNATURAL, THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS is long, and at times even dull, due to a missed opportunity to properly balance the content to be entertaining for all demographics.
The confounding thing is that Kripke is able to balance humor and scares or drama and conflict excellently in his series, and here something is extremely off and none of the dramatic beats get their due time before a lame bathroom joke, or slapstick comedy.
That the film targets children might be a defense thrown around – but is it really clear what demographic the film is really aiming for?
The first forty-five minutes of the film are light-hearted, fun, and clearly aimed at a younger audience, yet the deeper one gets into the second act, the darker the film gets – though not without the forced joke here or there.
The narrative also juggles too many subplots that not every plot gets a satisfying full arc.
It doesn’t help the film either that its lead actor is not as captivating as say Daniel Radcliffe, any of the STRANGER THINGS kids, or even further back young Henry Thomas who played Elliot in Spielberg’s E.T.
THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS rests on its protagonist, but young Owen Vaccaro is nothing memorable and at times even feels like he is trying too hard.
Whether this is due to the predictability of his character, for we have seen this archetype evolve over the past decade, or because of Owen being a novice at his craft, we will have to wait and see if he appears in more films in the future.
For a film that has weak wheels and springs, it also has a few working pieces in its mechanism.
The chemistry between Jack Black and Cate Blanchett is unexpectedly whimsical, and the audience will have a ball listening to them deliver writer Eric Kripke’s zingers at one another.
It does echo HIS GIRL FRIDAY at times - both seasoned actors are masters at their craft and they are able to offer some highly entertaining moments that will keep the audience engaged.
From a production stand point, the film is vibrant and colorful but the use of CGI is not as up to par as it should be.
Overall, THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS is a film that tries to offer its audience something new, entertaining, and memorable – the result, however, is debatable and maybe it’s not worth debating.
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