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The House with a Clock in its Walls Blu-ray Review: Lots of Fun Extras

Every kid can magically save the day!

Reviewed by on Dec 17, 2018
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Kidzworld checked out the new Blu-ray/DVD/Digital release review of The House With a Clock in its Walls. Do the many extras make it a must collect or gift this holiday season?

By: Lynn Barker

It’s 1955 when The House With a Clock in its Walls opens and orphaned,10-year-old Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) has to move in with his eccentric uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) in a spooky old house in a new town. Jon is a bit strange and has a cool and weird next-door neighbor called Mrs. Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) who is a witch to Jon’s warlock. Lewis learns magic from Jon. When Lewis uses a forbidden spell, he raises from the dead the former owner of the house Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan) who wants to use the clock he’s installed in the house to reverse time…to the beginning of life on Earth. Can new-to-magic Lewis stop him?

Mrs. Zimmerman, Jon and Lewis confront evil in the houseMrs. Zimmerman, Jon and Lewis confront evil in the houseCourtesy of Storyteller Distribution Co.

The House With a Clock in its Walls Trailer

Entering Strangeville

Young Lewis takes a bus to New Zebedee, Michigan after his parents are killed to live with his mom’s brother Jonathan. Jon is friendly but inept with kids and his house is scary. It’s full of clocks of all kinds but there is an additional ticking in the walls. Jon’s buddies are an armchair that moves and makes doggie sounds and the topiary lion outside who keeps pooping in odd places. The main stained-glass window morphs into various scenes. Jon’s neighbor Mrs. Zimmerman joins him in constantly trying to find the big clock hidden somewhere in the house. It’s counting down to something….bad.

Lewis learns magic from Jon and Mrs. ZimmermanLewis learns magic from Jon and Mrs. ZimmermanCourtesy of Storyteller Distribution Co.

New School Trauma

Wearing bow ties and weird aviator glasses because his hero Captain Midnight wears them, gets Lewis instantly ridiculed at his new school. Only semi-popular kid Tarby Corrigan (Sunny Suljic) befriends him but is his kindness sincere or does he just want a vote since he’s running for student body leader? Tarby tells Lewis that his new home is called the “Slaughterhouse” because some old guy killed someone there. The weirdness continues.

Lewis with a rare friend at schoolLewis with a rare friend at schoolCourtesy of Storyteller Distribution Co.

Confusing Night Terrors

Lewis “dreams” he sees his mom who tells him he is in danger and encourages him to “find the key and get the book”. Huh? Scared and confused, Lewis wakes to the horrible ticking in the walls. After seeing several otherworldly creatures and happenings, frightened Lewis packs to leave only to have a stained glass window morph into the words “Don’t go”. Jon admits that he is a warlock, a male witch and Florence Zimmerman from next door is a very powerful witch. There is a clock in the walls planted there by magician/warlock Isaac Izard and it’s counting down to something awful. Seems Izard blew himself up with a spell in the house years ago.

Izard conjures a spellIzard conjures a spellCourtesy of Storyteller Distribution Co.

Forbidden Cabinet

Jon teaches Lewis magic but warns that he must never open a certain locked cabinet, ever! Lewis agrees. Jon tells Lewis he must find his own unique style of magic to make spells work. At school, Tarby tells Lewis he’d be cooler if he “loses the goggles”. At home, Lewis studies spells and learns to throw energy balls around. The clock in the walls is now chiming three gongs. Jon is sure when it’s down to one, all heck will break loose. Tarby doesn’t believe that Lewis can do spells. He comes to the house, finds the key to the secret, forbidden cabinet and opens it. Inside is a book on necromancy, raising the dead!

Jon teaches Lewis how to throw a power light ballJon teaches Lewis how to throw a power light ballCourtesy of Storyteller Distribution Co.

Creepy Cemetery

Tarby gets elected and reverts to the true jerk he is, ignoring or dissing Lewis. In order to win back his new “friend”, Lewis says he can raise the dead with a spell from the book. The guys go to the cemetery and the book guides them to a grave. Lewis reads the spell and “someone” starts coming out of the grave. It’s Izard! Jon knows that Izard is coming home. He needs Mrs. Zimmerman’s magical help but she says she no longer has her powers. She’s been faking them since her family died. She also relates the tale of Izard’s past. After meeting a mentor/wizard in Germany during WW II, he returned with dark powers, married a witch named Selena and supposedly killed her in the house.

Tarby and Lewis in the cemeteryTarby and Lewis in the cemeteryCourtesy of Storyteller Distribution Co.

The Powerful Clock

Jon finds plans and notes for the clock in the walls and Lewis is able to decode them. Izard planned for the clock to count down until the night of a full moon eclipse at which time it would quickly count backwards, turning back time to the beginning of the Earth. Only he and Selena, who didn’t die after all, would inhabit the planet. When the reanimated Izard takes over the house, can his plan work or will Lewis find his true, personal magic and, with the aid of Jon and Mrs. Z, be able to stop the clock?

Preparing to fight Isaac and stop the clockPreparing to fight Isaac and stop the clockCourtesy of Storyteller Distribution Co.

Special Extra Features

The film looks and sounds very crisp and colorful! There are a ton of fun extras mostly on the Blu-ray. All are very entertaining.

  • Alternate Opening and Ending – watch with or without comments by Director Eli Roth and actor Jack Black. The guys talk about why the opening and closing were changed but these early versions are really nice.
  • Nine Deleted Scenes again, with or without commentary are all charming but we can see why they were cut for time.
  • Gag Reel – Yay, I love these. This one contains line blowing, making faces, lots of dancing, props falling etc. Very funny.
  • Warlocks and Witches covers the cast members in 4 parts. Young star Owen Vaccaro is selected, Jack Black is talked about. Cate Blanchett says “Working with Jack is like working with a puppy”. There is a tribute to Cate’s funny side and Kyle MacLachlin morphing from handsome guy to horrible weird dead dude via prosthetic makeup. All fun to watch.

Kyle MacLachlan and his undead make-upKyle MacLachlan and his undead make-upCourtesy of Storyteller Distribution Co.
  • Movie Magic in 5 parts, covers the film’s special visual effects, production design, props, the weird automatons that were borrowed from Director Steven Spielberg’s personal collection, the squishy gooshy pumpkins, the clock room set and weird baby Jon that has Jack Black’s face.. this creeped everybody out.  Nice featurette. \
  • Tick Tock: Bringing the Book to Life features the screenwriter who was a big fan of the novels and the 1980’s fantasy films like The Goonies.
  • Eli Roth: Director’s Journals and Owen Goes Behind the Scenes are the director and star’s multi-part coverage of locations, props, the wrap party, interviews with cast and crew, set tours and wardrobe. Lots of fun.

Director Roth with Kyle MacLachlan on setDirector Roth with Kyle MacLachlan on setCourtesy of Storyteller Distribution Co.
  • Theme Song Challenge is sooo much wacky fun as Jack, Owen, Kyle and “mom” actress Lorenza make up a theme song on the spot for the film complete with sound effects etc. Laughed a lot.
  • Do You Know Jack Black? is more silly fun as Jack quizzes his co-stars on facts from his past.
  • Abracadabra has Eli Roth doing a quick card trick for young Owen.
  • Jack Black’s Greatest Fear features Eli and Owen playing a prank on Jack in his trailer on set.
  • The Mighty Wurlitzer is really a cool feature with the film’s composer working with and explaining a giant organ from the silent film era that he refurbished and used for the film’s score. Loved it.
  • Audio Commentary by Eli Roth and Jack Black is hilarious and also informative. Be sure to watch the film without it first because these guys talk non-stop.

Wrapping Up

We gave the film 3 stars when it was in theaters because the adaptation of John Bellairs' 1973 young adult fantasy novel is meant to be a family-friendly blend of humor and horror. Sometimes it is but many times it fails.  Scenes at Lewis’s school seem almost out of another movie. His relationships are introduced but don’t really go anywhere. The film seems long and could do without the school scenes entirely.

Cate, Jack, Owen and director Eli at the premiereCate, Jack, Owen and director Eli at the premiereCourtesy of Storyteller Distribution Co.

The story wants to play like a 1980’s Gremlins or Goonies adventure but it’s convoluted and too predictable. For a movie with the potential for very cool, unique magic we haven’t seen before, it disappoints. The magic “gags” are timeworn. You’ve seen a lot of the “weird stuff” in the house before in other films (scary pumpkins, evil, mechanical dolls, etc.) as well.

How do we handle young Lewis?How do we handle young Lewis?Courtesy of Storyteller Distribution Co.

Black and Blanchett toss some funny insults at one another and Black’s usual goofy humor is fun. Young actor Owen Vaccaro plays Lewis well most of the time but bursts into tears at the drop of a hat and overacts a bit too often.

Mrs. Zimmerman has impressive powersMrs. Zimmerman has impressive powersCourtesy of Storyteller Distribution Co.

However, the movie has a warm and fuzzy heart and this Blu-ray/DVD/Digital set has a lot of really fun and entertaining extras that make us add a star! We can go 4 this time.

The House with a Clock in its Walls Blu-ray Rating: 4

The House with a Clock in its Walls Blu-ray CoverThe House with a Clock in its Walls Blu-ray CoverCourtesy of Storyteller Distribution Co.

You can buy The House with a Clock in its Walls starting December 18th.

Express Yourself!!!  

Are you going to gift to take home the DVD/Blu-ray/Digital package this holiday season? If you learned magical spells, what would you want to do first? Would you be a good or evil warlock/witch? Get creative and leave a comment below or, after you see the home entertainment version of the film, write your own review on your Kidzworld profile page.