The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018)
September 23, 2018 11:43 AM - Subscribe

A young orphan named Lewis Barnavelt aids his magical uncle in locating a clock with the power to bring about the end of the world.
posted by DirtyOldTown (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am so excited to see what people have to say about this. Bellairs novels were my absolute favorite as a child.
posted by gryphonlover at 4:14 PM on September 23, 2018

I was really looking forward to this when it was announced, but the trailers and reviews are making me dread it now. It looks really loud and crass in a way that the book just isn't. Like, a real nightmare scenario of exactly what I wouldn't want in an adaptation. I've heard some reviewers talk glowingly about how Lewis isn't such a sad, misfit kid in this, how he's a cool, confident kid now, like they think that's a feature instead of a bug. Lewis Barnavelt is supposed to be a bookish, chubby, scared, picked-on kid who gets in over his head! If you're not gonna make Lewis Lewis, you're really not adapting the book! That vomiting pumpkin clip making the rounds makes me want to vomit like one of the pumpkins. I've heard there are farting topiary monsters too. Just, ugh. Eric Kripke gave us Supernatural so I love the guy, but if this movie is half as toxic as it sounds he'll have lost a fangirl.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:29 PM on September 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

I've never read the book. But I will tell you it is isn't< half as scary as them hiring Eli Roth and encouraging him to scare the pants off of kids would have a person expect. It's got a bunch of clangingly lame bathroom jokes and Jack Black is typical JB madcap when the role seems to call for ambiguous/spooky. And the kid playing Lewis is a hammy Child Actor with capital letters in a way we ususally don't have to endure anymore in 2018.

That said, I didnt hate it. And I hate a lot of kids movies. Cate Blanchett was wonderful and there was some thematic stuff about dealing with loss that was cool for a kids movie. It was brisk and energetic and even though Roth went at it with kid gloves more than I would have hoped, it has some spooky stuff.

The SFX at the end with Jack Black with the baby body were jaw-droppingly bad.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:45 PM on September 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

Sounds like this is the adaptation I feared it was.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:01 PM on September 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

I haven't seen it and haven't decided whether I will but I have decided that in either case I will pretend that it is an adaptation of a different book coincidentally having the same name as the one I loved as a kid.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:26 AM on September 24, 2018

And for the benefit of those who would rather discuss the book: previously on FanFare.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:31 AM on September 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I was in grade school, we wrote letters to authors, and John Bellairs took the opportunity from some of our letters to come visit (he lived a few towns away from where I grew up). He brought a big pile of copies of his books for the classroom libraries, and I always appreciated it. I really hope this movie brings more kids to read his work, given that it's over 40 years old now.
posted by xingcat at 7:00 AM on September 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

I went to see it with no previous context, and really enjoyed how they depicted magic, thought the kid playing Lewis was quite adequate as the bookish misfit outcast kid, thought Blanchett was spectacular as Florence Zimmermann to the point of being role model material, and agree that the CGI baby during the climax was disturbing and unneeded. I was also distracted by how much the actor playing Tarby looked like a de-aged Lou Diamond Phillips.

My wife's been a John Bellairs fan since childhood, and had been eagerly awaiting this movie. She was absolutely satisfied with nearly everything in the adaptation save for the excesses of potty humor. She also loved Kyle MacLachlan's performance both in the flashback scenes and also when Izzard had come back from the dead.
posted by radwolf76 at 8:39 PM on September 24, 2018

I have no familiarity with the book so I didn’t have anything to compare to. I enjoyed it, and it was great for my kid who is still pretty young but likes scary things.

I don’t really understand why they changed the plot from the book (according to my Wikipedia reading of the book summary, unless it was just to give Kyle MacLachlan more screen time. Except we could have had more Renee Elise Goldberry!

Please can we have more movies with Blanchett and Black!? Their chemistry was so enjoyable to watch.
posted by emkelley at 11:43 AM on September 25, 2018

Please can we have more movies with Blanchett and Black!? Their chemistry was so enjoyable to watch.
I'm giving most of the credit to Blanchett there. After seeing this and her similarly delightful turn as Sandra Bullock's partner-in-crime in Ocean's 8, I think she has an underutilized Dean Martin-like gift for being the right hand man whose charm is both a foil and a competitor to the lead's.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:50 AM on September 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Please can we have more movies with Blanchett and Black!?

She shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love her and despair!
posted by Chrysostom at 1:24 PM on September 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Just saw this after being a huge fan of the book as a child. I do wish they'd gone with a smaller budget so they could focus more on character and storytelling than big VFX set pieces. The actors cast seemed to be within local minima of acceptable to me; Blanchett being the best of course. An older Jonathan would have been better, Black here reads to me no older than 40, though it was good that he had a bit of an edge to him. For the kids, Lewis was a bit extra; while Tarby was nicely underplayed. I did like the extras casting; quite diverse crowd scenes.

The thing that I really miss, though, was the low key eccentricity threaded throughout the book. The movie just tried too hard. The original script may have included several of the delightful bonding sequences from the books but those got cut to keep the budget and time down. 1:45 seems a bit tight here.

I wonder how much of this was shot on green, because many, many times the actors just seemed out of place. And the finishing clock room sequence was just awful. I get that having Lewis smash a table clock as in the book is not very visually compelling but a Jonathan baby, a warehouse full of gears, and the 8-ball saving the day by pure luck jamming th egears? No, this is a bad adaptation, this removes a lot of agency and character evolution from the Lewis in the book who had to take concrete action under direct observation of the big bad.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:05 AM on February 21, 2021

I saw this last night, and as a viewer who knew nothing of the books, I thought it... wasn't terrible. I was taken aback by how incredibly good Cate Blanchett and Jack Black were together, and I loved the house. I thought Lewis's use of a Ovaltine decoder ring and magic 8-ball to save the day was very cute. But some of the special effects were cringeworthy and the young boy who played Lewis really stank.
posted by orange swan at 3:39 PM on September 28, 2023

« Older Movie: Marshall...   |  Star Trek: Enterprise: Breakin... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments