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Movie review: Running out the ‘Clock’

Published October 03. 2018 12:59PM

The clock on the wall is “in” the wall in “The House with a Clock in Its Wall” and the eyes of Uncle Jonathan (Jack Black); his nephew, Lewis (Owen Vaccaro), and the uncle’s platonic friend, Florence (Cate Blanchett), are trying to watch the clock if they could only find it.

The doomsday clock figures in a scenario sprung, pun intended, by Issac (Kyle MacLachlan), whose wife, Selena (Renée Elise Goldsberry), and he are wizards of the highest order, even more powerful than Uncle Jonathan and Florence. Lewis is a quick-learner and may give them all a run for the magic wand.

The setting is New Zebedee, Michigan, in 1955, with gorgeous art direction, costuming and special effects throughout. Lewis arrives to live with Uncle Jonathan and Florence after his parents die in a car crash. Lewis idolizes Captain Midnight and wears goggles in homage to his hero.

“The House,” directed by Eli Roth (“Death Wish,” 2018; “Hostel,” 2005; “Hostel II,” 2007; Cabin Fever,” 2002), is based on the 1973 young adult novel by John Bellairs.

Fans of Jack Black, who is in his usual sartorial persona, and Cate Blanchett, who is always great, may want to see “The House” for their performances.

Parents be forewarned: Some of the subject material (bodily functions, which will delight children and gross out most parents), scary characters (robotic dolls), and action scenes (the slam-dunk against the wall of a female character) may be too frightening for some age 10 and under. It seems as though the movie should be MPAA-rated PG-13.

The screenplay by Eric Kripke (TV’s “Timeless,” 2016-18; “Supernatural,” 2005-18; “Boogieman,” 2005), and maybe the original novel, which I have not read, never quite gets, pun intended, wound up to set in motion the Armageddon-themed plot. The flashbacks are done too quickly and add confusion rather than an amplification of the storyline. It’s just all too deus ex machina.

“The House with a Clock in Its Wall” could have been a minor classic for the Halloween season. Alas, by its conclusion, time, ahem, ran out.

“The House with a Clock in Its Wall,” MPAA rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested Some material may not be suitable for children. Parents urged to give “parental guidance.” May contain some material parents might not like for their young children.) for thematic elements including sorcery, some action, scary images, rude humor and language; Genre: Fantasy, Comedy; Run Time: 1 hr., 45 min.; Distributed by Universal Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” end credits state: “No topiary griffins were harmed in the making of the film.” Cute cut-out animation of the movie’s characters, who wave “Good-bye” at the very end, are shown. Locations included Atlanta, Newnan, and Atlanta Metro Studios, Georgia. The United States Imax release is preceded with a 35th anniversary re-release of a 3D remaster of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (1983).

Box Office, Sept. 28: “Night School” schooled the box office, opening at No. 1, with $28 million, treading on “Smallfoot,” opening at No. 2 with $23 million, as time ran out for the No. 1 opening of “The House with a Clock in Its Walls,” dropping two places to No. 3, with $12.5 million, $44.7 million, two weeks.

4. “A Simple Favor” dropped two places, $6.6 million, $43 million, three weeks. 5. “The Nun” dropped two places, $5.4 million, $109 million, four weeks. 6. “Hell Fest,” $5 million, opening. 7. “Crazy Rich Asians” dropped two places, $4.1 million, $165.6 million, seven weeks. 8. “The Predator” dropped four places, $3.7 million, $47.6 million, three weeks. 9. “White Boy Rick” dropped three places, $2.3 million, $21.7 million, three weeks. 10. “Peppermint” dropped three places, $1.7 million, $33.5 million, four weeks.

Unreel, Oct. 5:

“A Star Is Born,” R: Bradley Cooper, in his theatrical motion picture directorial debut, directs himself, Lady Gaga and Sam Elliott in the musical romance drama. A musician helps a young singer and actress find fame. A remake of 1976 (Kris Kristofferson, Barbra Streisand), 1954 (James Mason, Judy Garland) and 1937 (Frederic March, Janet Gaynor) films of the same title.

“Venom,” PG-13: Ruben Fleischer directs Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Woody Harrelson and Jenny Slate in the Horror film. Eddie Brock merges with a symbiote, a fictional race of extraterrestrial characters in Marvel Comics.

“The Happy Prince,” R: Rupert Everett directs himself, Colin Firth and Emily Watson in the history drama. The last days of playwright Oscar Wilde are told from his own perspective.

Two popcorn boxes out of five popcorn boxes.

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