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MOVIES

The movie is fun, witty, dark and en­ter­tain­ing, but grown-ups may strug­gle a lit­tle, writes

- Yolisa Mkele Entertainment · Filmmaking · Movies · United States of America · Jack Black · Florence · Cate Blanchett · McDonald's · M. Night Shyamalan · Despicable Me

Kids will love this, their folks not so much

At some point dur­ing your child­hood you prob­a­bly wished for dif­fer­ent par­ents. Usu­ally be­cause your im­me­di­ate ge­netic an­ces­tors have Dra­co­nian ideas about bed­time and snob­bish views on ice cream as a break­fast ce­real, you would stare wist­fully out of the win­dow dream­ing of pack­ing a bag and flee­ing to care­givers who un­der­stood that you were dif­fer­ent. In a weird kind of way The House with a Clock in its Walls is the story of what hap­pens when the uni­verse de­cides to give you a crack at liv­ing with those quirky par­ents you’ve al­ways wanted. Based on the epony­mous chil­dren’s book, it re­volves around the ad­ven­tures of Lewis Bar­navelt (Os­car Vac­caro), a 10-year-old or­phan sent to live with his ec­cen­tric un­cle and his house-mate in 1950s Amer­ica. Lewis is keen on fit­ting in but his un­cle is al­ler­gic to the con­cept and so is his house.

This is where the act­ing comes in. As wit­nesses to the fi­nal prod­uct, au­di­ences of­ten for­get to think how odd it must be for ac­tors to stand in front of a green screen and feign hor­ror at in­vis­i­ble fly­ing books that are hell bent on blind­ing you. As some­one who cringes at the idea of even danc­ing in front of oth­ers, the thought of vi­o­lently swat­ting your hands at air in front of an en­tire film crew is a hor­ror movie in and of it­self. Not so for one of the film’s leads Jack Black, who plays Lewis’s ec­cen­tric un­cle.

“To be afraid of in­vis­i­ble books you have to be will­ing to be an id­iot. You can’t be afraid of hu­mil­i­a­tion,” says Black.

Not long af­ter he moves in, Lewis learns a few star­tling things. First off his un­cle and his un­cle’s room­mate Florence Zim­mer­man (Cate Blanchett) are a war­lock and a witch.

Lewis also no­tices that the house is alive — or rather, its con­tents are.

As is to be ex­pected, things go wrong when Lewis falls in with the wrong sort at school and breaks the only rule he was re­quired to obey in or­der to im­press a new friend.

Evil is un­leashed, the fate of the world is threat­ened and malev­o­lent pump­kins rise up against the good guys.

“As a parent I sub­scribe more to the Grimm Fam­ily tales than the more sac­cha­rine stuff. All of the best kids’ sto­ries have the scari­est vil­lains,” says Blanchett.

One of this film’s most iden­ti­fi­able pos­i­tives is that it is a break from min­ions, emoji movies and other kids’ flicks that feel like they came out of a mi­crowave at the cin­e­matic ver­sion of McDon­ald’s.

It may be be­cause of the source ma­te­rial or the fact that one can ap­pre­ci­ate the very real chem­istry be­tween the very real peo­ple on screen but The House with a Clock in its Walls has some­thing sports coaches may re­fer to as heart.

Says Blanchett: “Some­times you have a good time on set but the movie is not great and some­times you get the op­po­site. Work­ing on this movie was one of those win-win ex­pe­ri­ences. Not only did ev­ery­one take the work se­ri­ously but it was gen­uinely fun to be on set with ev­ery­one.”

That sense of joy is not only ap­par­ent in the movie but even in the con­ver­sa­tion with Blanchett and Black. They joke with and tease each other like high school friends who haven’t seen one an­other since the school hol­i­days.

“Be­ing on set was great. When I think of my clos­est re­la­tion­ships, there is al­ways a bit of ban­ter and there was a lot of that on set,” says Black.

Good chem­istry, how­ever, does not ab­solve The House with a Clock in its Walls of all its sins. Mur­der­ous shrub­bery and a su­per­fluity of sparkly mag­i­cal bits does lit­tle to hide the fact that this movie’s plot con­tains fewer twists than the N1 but it is not en­tirely clear that that mat­ters. Do kids go in for that whole M. Night Shya­malan sur­prise end­ing stuff? Prob­a­bly not.

There are also at­tempts at char­ac­ter depth that, while ad­mirable, feel a lit­tle half-hearted. For ex­am­ple, over the course of the movie we learn that the rea­son Florence does not prac­tise magic any­more is be­cause of the trauma of los­ing her fam­ily in the Holo­caust. The thing is, though, the Holo­caust is al­ways whis­pered about, like a fam­ily se­cret at Christ­mas that all the adults are des­per­ately try­ing to hide from the kids. Thinly veiled al­lu­sions to one of his­tory’s worst crimes feel a lit­tle like fence sit­ting. Ei­ther one gives

I sub­scribe more to the Grimm Fam­ily tales than the more sac­cha­rine stuff. All of the best kids’ sto­ries have the scari­est vil­lains

the au­di­ence, re­gard­less of their age, a glimpse into just how vile Nazis were — or leave it out al­to­gether.

As a chil­dren’s movie The House with a Clock in its Walls is fun, witty, suit­ably dark and en­ter­tain­ing. If your child en­joys words and is a bit of an od­dball they will prob­a­bly en­joy this movie just as much as they did De­spi­ca­ble Me. Par­ents, on the other hand, may strug­gle a lit­tle. The pump­kins are re­ally cool though. LS

The House with a Clock in its Walls is on cir­cuit

 ?? Pic­ture: Dave J Ho­gan/Getty Im­ages ?? Jack Black and Cate Blanchett at the world pre­miere of ‘The House With a Clock In Its Walls’.
Pic­ture: Dave J Ho­gan/Getty Im­ages Jack Black and Cate Blanchett at the world pre­miere of ‘The House With a Clock In Its Walls’.

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