House With a Clock In Its Walls: Eli Roth Fantasy Lacks Magic

1.5 out of 5 stars (one of the worst of the year)

House With a Clock in its Walls poster
Image from

Watching The House With a Clock in its Walls is like being on a massive sugar high: It’s way too fast, very confusing, and eventually causes you as a viewer to crash and fight falling asleep.  Why horror director Eli Roth and Supernatural creator Eric Kripke were chosen to helm this project is a mystery given that neither are known for family entertainment, and it really shows here.  Add a completely miscast Jack Black, underused Cate Blanchett, and a child actor with little screen presence, and you have one of the dullest fantasies of the year, for adults anyway.  The kids in my audience laughed a lot, so I’m sure this film will be a hit at 12-year-old slumber parties on dark stormy nights, if that’s any consolation.

Following his parents’ death, Lewis (Owen Vaccaro, of the tedious Daddy’s Home franchise) is sent to live with his quirky and mysterious Uncle Jonathan (a thoroughly annoying and out-of-place Jack Black) in his creepy old mansion.  Jonathan basically shirks his responsibilities as a guardian, except for one rule: Don’t open the ominous cabinet in the house’s center, or bad things will come.  Oooooo.

As always in these creepy haunted location movies, Lewis hears a ticking sound in the wall one night, only to see Jonathan sneaking around like a cat-burglar.  After discussing this with a kid at school, Lewis confronts Jonathan, and the man reveals himself and deadpan neighbor Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett trying her hardest to save the picture) are a warlock and witch, respectively.  They start training Lewis in magic as he tries to investigate the secret behind the ticking in the wall, which leads to yet another fantasy bad guy with a take-over-the-world scheme (Played with a modicum of energy by 90’s icon Kyle MacLachlan).

The House With a Clock in its Walls has absolutely no idea what it is or who it’s aimed at.  Black is in full man-child mode here, making funny faces to make kids laugh, but a blasé story, lack of momentum, and later scary images make it questionable for younger kids.  12-and-ups should be safe, but any younger may have nightmares.  Again, the kids in my screening laughed a ton, and I probably would have liked this too in my younger years, but I feel the pain of their parents who must pay for them to see it and watch good actors like Black and Blanchett act like one-dimensional cartoons.  Director Roth is expectedly more comfortable in the horror scenes than the comedic ones, but I found much of the humor flat.  At least I earned a free popcorn the next time I go to the theater and heard a comparably interesting podcast about the proper temperature of wine on the ride back home.

The House With a Clock in Its Walls is a boring, drawn-out fantasy with mostly uninteresting direction, a rushed script, and unlikable characters that had me in an epic battle to avoid sleeping in my comfy seat.   As with The Nun, I must ask why this isn’t an October release.  Its creepy visuals and tone are tailor-made for tweens on a stormy night, but adults will likely be bored by this.  At one point, a character says to young Lewis, “It’s a total waste of time”.  I couldn’t agree more, young sir.  Skip it.

Rated PG for Thematic Elements Including Sorcery (seriously?), Some Action, Scary Images, Rude Humor, And Language

The “King” of all Movies!

5 out of 5 stars (One of the best movies I’ve ever seen, period)

Note: This is one of my absolute favorite movies.  The acting is great, the script is able to effortlessly blend action, spectacle, romance, emotion, and humor, and it gives the entire cast some of their best work to date (including the controversially cast funnyman Jack Black, who proves his dramatic abilities here.)  If you like epics, see this film.  It runs a full 3 hours, but it is worth the length.  Please enjoy my review below.

Move over Lion King, there’s a new ape in town!

This is no Mighty Joe Young. This is more incredible than The Incredibles. More swinging than Spider-Man. More gigantic than George of the Jungle! More terrific than Tarzan! It’s the one, the only, KING KONG!!!

Carl (Jack Black) is a movie producer with a wild mind for films. When he hears the CEO is planning to fire him, he slips away to a ship that will take him to the destination of his next film, Skull Island. Everything’s going the way it’s supposed to be. Carl has got a crew, a beautiful female (Naomi Watts), a writer (Adrien Brody) and an actor to do the stunts (Kyle Chandler). No problem, right? Wrong. Once they get on the island, the native people who live there don’t take too kindly to the crew. They attack the crew members and later steal Ann, Jack’s female, to offer as a sacrifice to Kong.

Once Carl and the crew go into the jungle to search for Ann, they battle dinosaurs, giant snails, and huge cockroaches. Kong is busy saving Ann from three dinosaurs and ripping one’s jaw open, which I found very sick. They finally rescue Ann, find Kong, and chloroform him by throwing a bottle of the stuff into his eye. They then put him on a ship and take him to New York.

Then it’s a love story between female and ape. King Kong is such a hero he saves Ann three times. In one scene in New York, Kong is playing with Ann on the ice in Central Park. Basically he is ice skating on his behumpus. My mom thought it was romantic when they were playing on the ice, but I liked it when the ice exploded as the military shot a gun at Kong. From my perspective, violence rocks but romance makes me want to barf.

This movie has the kind of violence you see in Jurassic Park but it’s funny in some ways, too. When Carl offers a native child some chocolate he violently grabs Carl’s arm and bites him. I had to hide behind my mom’s scarf when the natives were offering Ann to Kong, because if you see the natives you’ll get nightmares for the rest of your life (or maybe a week). Cover up!

I think it stunk that they made King Kong into a show animal. He seemed human, just like your regular everyday Robert De Niro. I’m not sure who Robert De Niro is, but Kong looked like the kind of guy who should be named Robert De Niro.

Will Kong ever escape New York City? Will Ann marry Kong? Will Kong return to his island home?

I gave this movie five stars because it was so good my mom didn’t even want to leave her seat to go to the bathroom. Hint: Don’t drink a giganto sprite.

Rated PG-13 for frightening adventure violence and some disturbing images.