‘You’ll see. Things are… quite different around here.’
I’ll break it to you gently, this isn’t the new Hocus Pocus. It doesn’t capture the earlier film’s fantastical charm, wit and warmth. Whilst it has its moments, THWACIIW (as no-one is calling it) doesn’t utilize on its potential. It’s a series of set pieces that are somewhat stuck together, uneven both in terms of pace and tone, with a narrative that meanders to the closing credits.
Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) has been recently orphaned due to a tragic car accident involving both of his parents. He’s now moved to Michigan to live his with Uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) – a man whom he’s never met. Jonathan resides in a strange house with a rather strange neighbour, Mrs Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett). He quickly discovers that his uncle is a warlock, their neighbour is a witch and the clock ticking within the walls of his new home may just be a clock leading to Judgement Day – all of the above may have something to do with the house’s previous resident Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan)…
As previously mentioned, there are brief moments where the film really works, when the quirk becomes magical rather than vaguely aggravating. You find yourself being rather charmed. Then there’s a poop joke or something simillar, not necessarily a problem yet it adds nothing to the plot. The chemistry between Black and Blanchett is non-existent, barely offering a sparkle or a twinkle. Not to mention the total waste of MacLachlan.
The shining star of the entire enterprise is Vaccaro, adorable as the school outcast who struggling to come to terms with the loss of his parents and subsequent relocation. He’s a delight to watch during his discovery of magic and his bond with his magic eight ball may result in feelings of envy and an urge to find one in your local toyshop.
What really lets the film down is it’s lack of worldbuilding, with many things being under explained or under developed – often being forgotten and abandoned. The script and dialogue is weighed down by various macguffins rather than intrinsically important plot points. It’s also important to note that this is an example of a 12a that is truly a 12a – one that is only advisable to those nearer 12. The latter part of the film gets very dark and could prove unsettling.
The fact it’s been released a whole month before Halloween (which on paper would have been a natural fit) raises questions that actually seeing the film answers; this is forgettable family film fodder staging an appearance before the bigger blockbusters start dominating the Autumn season.
The House With A Clock In Its Walls is in UK cinemas from September 21st.