The House with a Clock in Its Walls (PG)

Directed by producer/actor/writer/director Eli Roth, based on the first in a series of 12 books (1973) by the late Jack Bellairs and starring Owen Vacarro, Jack Black and Cate Blanchett, The House with a Clock in Its Walls tells the story of a young boy who must go to live with his magical uncle in a strange house following the death of his parents. After moving in, the young boy aids his uncle in locating and stopping a clock with the power to bring about the end of the world.

As usual, I‘ve never read this book so I had no idea what the story was about going in, what was in the book and not in the movie or vice versa, etc. If I were as avid a reader as I should be, this wouldn’t have been on my “to read” list anyhow. Not my genre.

I watched The House With a Clock in Its Walls in an RPX theater all by myself (with my smuggled in (went to a Regal theater. Damn them and their bag check!!! Even if I didn’t bring my own food, I wouldn’t be particularly interested in buying theirs, but that’s another rant for another day. We’re talking mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, and pickle. Yum!). The solitude felt sort of weird because the theater was huge, and I didn’t have the reaction of another soul to compare my experience to. There are times when I consider crowd reaction after a movie. You take notice of no one laughing or people laughing at scenes that were meant to be serious, or us all laughing or crying (Yes, I heard all those sniffles while trying to stop my own) together, or I am the only one laughing out loud because no one else seems to “get” it or I’ve decided a movie listed as a drama has turned into ridiculous drivel that I have to find some way to enjoy. Sometimes I just make note of the silence as everyone is absorbed in whatever is on the screen. You know what I mean. Anyway, let’s get into it.

To say that the Black/Blanchett pairing is odd doesn’t even begin to explain what occurs here. They have no business on the same screen together. Ever. Period. For any reason. Blanchett with her extensive, versatile film catalogue and Black with his one trick ponyism (I’m not judging. There’s nothing wrong with being a one trick pony. If you think about it, Clint Eastwood got away with it successfully for decades using his trademark tough guy scowl and that voice. It just is what it is.). They spewed banter at one another for much of the hour and 45 minutes, attempting jokes which mostly fail due to the fact that there is zero chemistry between them. Their characters are supposed to be best friends, but it felt as though there were no connection between them at all. No one did a terrible job here. The chemistry just wasn’t evident on screen. Blanchett looked as if she had fun during the action scenes, at least.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls isn’t the most annoying young adult story featuring magic spells that I’ve ever seen, I guess. All I know is somewhere in the middle of it all they lost me, and near the end I wanted to just walk out. I didn’t, and it didn’t end too terribly. Underdog triumphs, blah, blah, blah. Nerdy kid turned cool, blah, blah, blah. One big happy family in the end, blah, blah, blah. The entire movie is kind of meh, with some great effects and some creepiness to it. Small children might find it too scary, as it contains a lot of the stuff of nightmares such as clowns, devils, odd looking dolls and the like.

Despite its problems, The House With a Clock in Its Walls earned 6.5 out of 10 bloops. It is a movie worth seeing in a theater for the effects but I have to stop short of calling it “good.” It’s somewhere between not bad/could have been better and almost what I might call a good movie. The lack of chemistry between Black and Blanchett is just too large an obstacle to overcome but the effects are great. Quite a mixed bag here. I suspect that if it does well enough at the box office this won’t be the last we will see of these characters, and if that is the case, let’s just hope someone gets re-cast.

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1   =   worst ever, avoid at all cost
2   =   very bad, forget about it!
3   =   poor movie, not recommended
4   =   not good, even for free – NO!
5   =   so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6   =   not bad, could have been better
7   =   good movie, worth seeing
8   =   great movie, don’t miss it!
9   =   excellent movie, a must see!
10 =   a masterpiece, go see it now!

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