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Film Review: “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” (2018) ★★★


Wouldn’t it be cool to have magic powers? We could do so many nice things, for instance, have a coffee machine that can make coffee by itself? Or the dream of any student to have their homework done automatically, magically, instantly, right? But the magic you will witness in “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” is far greater and much more dangerous than you can imagine. And in case you learn it, never use it no matter the circumstance.

The movie opens in 1955, when the ten-year-old Lewis Barnavit has recently lost his parents. Receiving a letter from his uncle, Jonathan, the young man travels to New Zebedee, Michigan, where he finds himself in a very strange old house where he should live with his funny uncle who promises to Lewis that there are no rules in the house, no bedtime nor mealtime, except one simple rule that should have been easy to follow: to not look inside the locked cabinet. But when Lewis disobeys the order, he finds himself putting the entire world into great danger by raising from the dead a sinister magician (Kyle MacLachlan) who promises to erase all the people from Earth.

Jonathan soon learns that his uncle is a warlock, albeit not so good though, while his next-door neighbor Florence Zimmerman possesses magic and in fact is a powerful being with kind intentions. The lines both Florence and Jonathan exchange are too funny. Lewis, of course, quickly realizes the spark between the two grown-up men but decides not to pay attention to that. But when he learns about Jonathan’s magical power, he begs him to teach him, which Jonathan does. And that’s how trouble begins when, too proud with its own ability to absorb new skills quickly, Lewis is in a rush to impress the most famous student in school, with whom he wants become friends, Tarby. Lewis takes him to a cemetery where he begins showing off his magical skills, and accidentally bringing back a couple who were better off staying where they were right before that life-changing moment.

“The House with a Clock in Its Walls”, based on the 1973 novel with the same title by John Bellairs and directed by Eli Roth, is a funny fantasy comedy with wickedly hilarious lines. Casting Cate Blanchett and Jack Black was the best decision made in the making of this movie, as both actors were not shy biting each other with smart lines every time they share a scene, which is literally every single one. Owen Vacarro’s Lewis is a very intelligent boy with the right skills to be useful to his uncle, who feels at one point that he made the wrong call bringing Lewis to this house. But it was Mrs. Zimmerman who manages to reassure Jonathan why it is important to have Lewis around, “To be worried about a child 24/7 and all over again is a job description for every parent.” This was enough for Jonathan to realize his nephew is worth being worried for, after all.

In the end, Eli Roth’s movie is an excellent excuse for the entire family to head to the nearby cinema. Indeed, it offers lots of magic, memorable scenes and food for thought especially about life when Jonathan tells Lewis, “Life is like a bicycle. Stay balanced and keep moving forward.” Well, Lewis will have plenty of opportunities to learn about not giving up, moving forward and the true purpose of the house with a clock in its walls.


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