It’s a Kimono! Such is the setup for the comedic vibes of The House with a Clock in its Walls starring Jack Black. But is it just a comedic romp through a Halloween home filled with exploding malicious pumpkins or is there more to this movie? The short answer is yes. But let me back up and give you some more of the story.
The movie takes place in 1955 and revolves around our young protagonist Lewis whos parents have been recently killed in a car accident. He’s been given custody to his Uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) who lives with his friend Florence (Cate Blanchett). Jonathan is a Warlock, and Florence a Witch. It doesn’t take long for Lewis to discover that something is weird. Though how could he not when the stained glass window changes images each day that move around and there is a chair that is essentially the family dog. Not to mention the winged lion made from hedges that constantly poops all over. Yes, there are cat poop jokes. Also Lawrence loves science fiction (good kid) and is constantly reading the dictionary because I guess that was a thing in 1955. So naturally he’s really smart.
The story follows Lewis as he tries to adjust to his new life with his uncle, at his new school dealing with bullies and fake friends, oh and there’s a clock in the walls they can’t find and something bad will come from it when it strikes zero. (I think the trailers made that pretty obvious). Lewis, of course, starts to learn to become a warlock and hijinks ensue when he tries to prove his magic to his possible friend Tarby.
Except these aren’t really hijinks. There’s been some humor throughout the movie, the trailers pretty much promised this, but things do start to take a darker creepier turn. We learn more about the houses former occupant, his connection to Jonathan. We learn more about Florence’s history and there’s a very dark turn for her and for the Antagonists past. Your children will likely not recognize the significance of Florence’s ordeals (which is not the correct word) and it was not a conversation I particularly wanted to have with my pre-teen. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it moment, and you have to understand the significance of what you’re seeing for it to make sense. But that moment speaks volumes about what she has been through. It’s more subtlety that I would normally expect from a children’s movie.
All in all this is actually a really good, well-made movie. It’s fun and a bit creepy and has some scary (for young ones) bits without ever really relying on jump scares. There is some slapstick, the aforementioned winged lion, some puking pumpkins, and some other Jack Black-isms. Cate Blanchett and Jack Black work very well together, its the kind of friendship where two people constantly insult each other because they love each other that much. Despite the constant banter between the two, you can feel the love (platonic) and bonds that exist between these two characters.
If you’re looking for a good Halloween movie for your kids, something fun without being too scary, I would highly recommend The House with a Clock in its Walls. Both of my children really enjoyed it and neither of them had nightmares afterward. That’s a good sign.