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‘The House with the Clock in its Walls’ good, not great

September 29, 2018

By bringing “The House with a Clock in its Walls” to the big screen, director Eli Roth (“Death Wish,” “Hostel” one and two, “Cabin Fever”) has given us good, clean fun. Not terribly interesting fun, but fun nonetheless.

Having never read (nor even heard of) the bestselling young adult novel, I do not know if the book was much better, but the movie was absolutely average. OK, maybe a little better than average.

The first half was kind of boring, with things really heating in the second half.

The only thing here that gets high ratings in my book are the visuals. The sets are eccentric but not too creepy, which allows even the youngest viewers to watch the movie without being terrified. This is a plus.

It seems that all of the children in the audience were really engaged in the movie, and seemed “hooked.” It seemed well received by most of the adults as well.

The script and acting left a bit to be desired, though.

The star, Jack Black (“Tropic Thunder,” “School of Rock,” “King Kong”), as Jonathan Barnavelt, never seemed to get that “Black magic” a-happening, and it showed. He is really great at making any part his own, but here he was either held back by the director or just didn’t seem to get “it.”

Cate Blanchett (“Elizabeth,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Bandits”), as Florence Zimmerman, on the other hand, had a part that was really dull. Her character was supposed to be drab and creepy, but just came across as drab.

The child protagonist, Lewis Barnavelt, played by Owen Vaccaro (“Daddy’s Home,” “Fun Mom Dinner,” “Mother’s Day”), was way too “adorable child star” for this film. Running around looking like Alfalfa without the cowlick, he was always spot-on with his corny lines and predictable behavior.

Maybe he can act, but here he just filled a slot.

On the second tier, we have Kyle MacLachlan (“Dune,” “Twin Peaks,” “Blue Velvet”) as Isaac Izard, the creepy villain. He was kind of eccentric, but far from creepy. As cartoonish as he needed to be, he played well with others and earned his keep, although nobody here looked like they put a lot of energy into their roles.

Renee Elise Goldsberry (“One Life to Live,” “Ally McBeal,” “The Good Wife”) has a good look about her as Selena Izard, but her role is poorly written and seems only added as an afterthought.

“The House with a Clock in Its Walls” may have been a great book, but this is NOT a great movie.

Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at summers855@yahoo.com.

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