"The House With The Clock In Its Walls" is a kids/family movie starring Jack Black and Cate Blanchett. The plot involves an orphan boy who goes to live with his eccentric uncle (Jack Black, who else?) Strange and spooky things happen in this house and the boy discovers that his uncle is a warlock (the good kind of warlock, that is.) There is a mysterious ticking in the walls, the result of a magical doomsday clock planted there by the house's former owner who was also a warlock (the bad kind of warlock, that is.) If you're confused by this storyline summary, you know how I felt when watching the movie.
Jack Black seems mis-cast as the eccentric uncle. Of course, Black does eccentric well but it this case it's as if he knows how corny the material is and can't quite commit any energy to it. Cate Blanchett stands out as Black's neighbor who also has magical powers. She is probably the most entertaining thing in the movie, although she is apparently supposed to be a crusty old woman however, the make-up doesn't do a good job hiding the fact that Blanchett is beautiful. The lead child actor and the other child actors in the movie give unremarkable performances.
It is a simple good verses evil story but it's cliché and lacking in any real impact. There is a feeble attempt to inject some subtext having to do with Blanchett's character losing her powers because of a family tragedy. That could have been an interesting story-line but it doesn't really connect.
The movie features a strong and entertaining score but it alone can't overcome the weaknesses in the story.
Any fantasy story (even one aimed at young kids) needs to have some basis in the real world in order to make the fantasy believable. The fantasy in this movie just comes off as contrived and even uninteresting. A magical clock hidden inside the wall of a house? Huh? The dialogue often falls flat as well.
By far the strongest things about the movie are the set designs and special effects. The settings are visually rich and the special effects are impressive although often pointless in terms of story telling. There is one special effect involving Black that was just creepily disturbing. (Let's just say, you never want to see Jack Black wearing a diaper.)
Apparently this film is based on a popular children's book. I am not familiar with the book, so perhaps I'm missing something here. But, as a movie I found the story to be as awkward and uninteresting as the title suggests.