The House with a Clock in Its Walls
The concept of an orphan being taken in by a completely different world is a trope in stories as old as time; copied in the likes of Oliver Twist, Batman, Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and even Star Wars. It is a useful plot device to introduce an audience to a new world, but if done incorrectly it can seem like a blatant copy and paste.
The House with A Clock in Its Walls is adapted from the 1973 John Bellairs novel of the same name, and follows a young orphan named Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) who is adopted by his uncle Jonathan (Jack Black), who turns out to be a warlock. Lewis soon learns that a mysterious hidden clock, placed there by the previous evil owner of the house, haunts Jonathan’s house.
From the opening scene, the film’s script shows us a clunky and exposition-heavy dialogue that plagues all of the characters throughout. There never seems to be any character development at all; director Eli Roth is too focused on making sure all the lore is dumped to the audience, so that his actors seem to have had no direction whatsoever.
In fact, one of the core weaknesses of the film is young actor Owen Vaccaro, whose line recitation and reactions seem fitter for a school play than a multi-million dollar film. But the kids aren’t the only performers lost, the lesser-known stars, such as Colleen Camp and Lorenza Izzo in small roles also have cringe-worthy line delivery. Only the more seasoned actors like Black and Cate Blanchett, as his witch neighbor, sputter some life into the film.
The film ends up being not only predictable, but also blatantly terrible at foreshadowing, giving the audience the answers way in advance in sheer clumsiness. In the end, there are no twists and no tension, with the lousy script and missing direction this combination makes this film a true snoozer.