'The House with the Clock in the Walls' scares and soothes with magic
- Written by Martha K. Baker
The latest Jack Black flick is a great Hallowe'en movie, better even than the franchise named "Halloween." Based on the novel by John Bellairs, "The House with the Clock in the Walls" offers scary stuff – be prepared to jump out of your comfy seat – along with an unbelievable story and family values.
Bong. Bong. Bong. The sound of a clock in a tower in 1955. The city is New Zebedee; the state, Michigan; the boy, orphaned. Little Lewis is on his way to Michigan to live with his Uncle Jonathan, estranged from Lewis' mother, Jonathan's sister, who has died.
Jonathan is not like other uncles. For one thing, he greets the boy wearing a kimono. For another, he lives in a house that looks haunted. For exterior decoration, there's a giant green griffin, unhousetrained to the litter box. For interior decor, there are the clocks of the title.
Jonathan spends nights looking for the clock secreted in the bowels of the house by Jonathan's former partner in magic. Jonathan must find that clock or all hell will break loose. Lewis wants to help, but Jonathan and his good friend and neighbor and sad lady, Mrs. Zimmerman, refuse Lewis' offer. He persists.
Kate Blanchett plays Mrs. Z – not her best work. Jack Black is his usual cool self as the uncle of dark arts. Kyle MacLachlan plays the evil magician with Renée Elise Goldsberry as his assistant in life and death. But the best thing about the cast of "The House" is Owen Vaccaro, who brings to Lewis smiles and tears, fears and persistence. He makes the movie.
Nathan Barr's music adds atmosphere to the remarkable art production designed by Jon Hutman. Director Eli Roth, known for horror movies, has made a compassionate movie overlaid with slightly frightening aspects. Do not take little kids under, say, 8-years-old.