Eli Roth’s next feature “The House With a Clock in its Walls” works wonders with its production design, sets, and some magic; but fails to provide anything special. As a kids movie (and I think very small children will be afraid), it splices thrills with goofiness (in a manner of “Beetlejuice”), but nothing tickled me. Maybe one smile, but it’s more noisy than magical.
Set in 1955, a young boy named Lewis (Owen Vacarro from “Daddy’s Home”) is sent to live with his Uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) and his bickering friend Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett), after the death of his parents. Some say the house he’s living in is haunted; but it’s just magic. Jonathan has a lot of clocks, moving portraits, dolls, and a library. That’s because he’s a warlock (or boy witch as Lewis says), and Florence is a witch. Both of them are looking for the biggest clock that the original house owner-the wicked warlock Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan)-has hidden.
Lewis trains to become a warlock, and Jonathan gives him one rule: never open his cabinet. But when a so-called-friend of his (Sunny Suljic from “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”) and his dead mother (Lorenza Izzo) respectively convince him to open it, he takes a spell book, which raises the dead. Isaac is the man he inadvertently brings back to life, and he plans to turn back time.
About the visual world, you have to admit all the clocks in the house are placed on a timely basis. The 1950s setting makes things feel authentic and charming with the cars, schools, and ice creams shops. And you also have moving portraits of boats and cowboys, and they look so colorful.
“The House With a Clock in its Walls” looks cool when we hear all the clocks ticking, but is annoying when there’s too much tocking. Black and Blanchett are only good during the last half, while the first half makes them tired and routine. Vacarro is just as noisy as in “Daddy’s Home” with his constant screams. And MacLachlan is all cut and paste. Such wasted talents.
How could a movie so dark, so creepy, and so loud be aimed as a kid’s movie? Maybe because the movie wants to be goofy or because Black can make fun kids flicks like “School of Rock,” “Goosebumps,” and “Kung Fu Panda.” It’s debatable.
Preceding “The House with a Clock in its Walls” is the hit music video from 1983: “Michael Jackson’s Thriller,” which is having an IMAX 3D version for a limited time. Directed by John Landis and featuring a voice cameo from Vincent Price, this short film tried and failed to get an Oscar nomination, but has grown popular over time.
Michael Jackson plays a teen, who takes his girlfriend (Ola Ray) on a date, and then turns into a werewolf. Turns out it was just a movie, and when she wants to walk out of the theater, zombies show up, and he becomes one, too. You see his famous dance with them, wonderfully choreographed by Jackson and Michael Peters.
I think it’s a bad idea for this 3D showing to precede a non-3D movie, because it could throw people off, making them confused. I mean the screen will tell them to take off their glasses, but people are predictable.
Apart from that, I love this music video. I love the music, the lyrics, and the dancing. Michael Jackson (bless his soul) looks so fresh in this video with or without make-up and special effects. He’s flexible and emotional at the same time. And I just love how this video looks, reminding fans of styles from the 80s. And in terms of its 3D and HD, it looks fascinating.