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film review

Uncle Jonathan (Jack Black), Mrs. Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) and Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) from Eli Roth's The House With A Clock in Its Walls.Photo Credit: Quantrell Colbert//Storyteller Distribution Co.

  • The House with a Clock in Its Walls
  • Directed by Eli Roth
  • Written by Eric Kripke (based on the 1973 novel of the same name by John Bellairs)
  • Starring Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Kyle MacLachlan
  • Classification: PG 
  • 104 minutes


3.5 out of 4 stars

As a child I believed in the power of Magic 8-Balls and chocolate chip cookies. I still do, and so does The House with a Clock in Its Walls, a fantastical adventure, dandy ode to weirdos, and accessible anti-war allegory for all ages, especially 10-year-old boys.

The film’s pint-sized protagonist is one of those: Lewis Barnavelt is a recently orphaned nerd sent to live with his oddball uncle (played with typical pizzazz by Jack Black). He’s a warlock in a magical mansion enlivened by energetic chairs and catty banter with his good-witch neighbour Mrs. Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett). All seems well, except that a clock is hidden in one of the walls.

The non-stop tick-tocking is nagging, but the timepiece can’t be found, because, well, hex marks its spot. That the film is set in the 1950s is no accident: This is an America with its psyche traumatized by the Second World War. When a troubled villain wants to turn back the hands of time, a doomsday device begins to count down.

Who will save the world? Not men – the task falls to fierce women and an indomitable younger generation. And the clock is ticking.