My husband and I are huge fans of the actor Jack Black, seeking out and devouring every one of his films we can find, from his voice-over work (Kung Fu Panda, Shark Tale) to live action blockbusters (Jumanji, Goosebumps). We even enjoyed his more unusual offerings (Pick of Destiny). So we were especially excited to see what the recent movie adaption of John Billairs' classic YA book, House With A Clock In Its Walls, was all about.
In this fantastic fantasy film appropriate for most ages, Black plays Uncle Jonathan, the eccentric caretaker of the titular mansion. The film opens with tween-age orphan Lewis coming to stay with his Uncle and his uncle's friend, Florence. Turns out Jonathan and Florence are witches, and they begin to teach Lewis their craft under one condition: He is never ever to open a certain locked cabinet and/or touch the book hidden away within. He isn't even allowed to ask about it. But dream visits from his deceased mother, as well as taunts from the school bully, lead him to do the one thing he is not supposed to do. Lewis ends up using the book to raise Isaac Izard, a terrible dark wizard, from the dead. Turns out the house used to belong to Izard, and he has hidden within its walls a magical doomsday clock that will reset the entire planet back to pre-human time. And the clock is slowly ticking down...set to go off the night of the Great Lunar Eclipse which, as bad luck will have it, is just days away. Turns out only Lewis has the power to stop the apocalypse from happening. But is he brave enough?
Having not read Billairs' book, I had no basis for comparison and don't know how closely the film stuck to the source material. But it was a thoroughly enjoyable watch. Acting was ace and special effects were spectacular (albeit a little creepy in parts). To add to the suspenseful atmosphere of the film, there was an actual lunar eclipse happening as we watched. This was pure coincidence, but it made things that much cooler. I'd recommend this movie to fans of Goosebumps and Harry Potter films. Definitely fun!