The House with a Clock in Its Walls

Critics Consensus

An entertaining PG detour for gore maestro Eli Roth, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a family-friendly blend of humor and horror with an infectious sense of fun.



Total Count: 206


Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,257
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Movie Info

In the tradition of Amblin classics where fantastical events occur in the most unexpected places, Jack Black and two-time Academy Award (R) winner Cate Blanchett star in THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS, from Amblin Entertainment. The magical adventure tells the spine-tingling tale of 10-year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) who goes to live with his uncle in a creaky old house with a mysterious tick-tocking heart. But his new town's sleepy façade jolts to life with a secret world of warlocks and witches when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead.

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Critic Reviews for The House with a Clock in Its Walls

All Critics (206) | Top Critics (28)

  • I found my attention wandering.

    Jan 7, 2019 | Full Review…
  • A fantastical adventure, dandy ode to weirdos, and accessible anti-war allegory for all ages, especially 10-year-old boys.

    Sep 21, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • It runs out of steam at about the midway point and falls victim to clumsy, overcooked plotting. It's fun for a while, until it becomes more trick than treat.

    Sep 21, 2018 | Rating: C | Full Review…
  • The plot and themes don't really measure up but it is fun, largely because of the matter-of-fact brand of wit dispensed by Blanchett and Black and the young fogeyish appeal of Vaccaro's Lewis.

    Sep 21, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • This is the latest in a series of films that have criminally wasted the luminous Blanchett.

    Sep 21, 2018 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

    Ed Potton

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • With his latest, Roth reverses time, not just going back to the 1950s, but essaying adult genre for kids... Nostalgic, but smart on nostalgia's dangerous extremes.

    Sep 21, 2018 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The House with a Clock in Its Walls

  • Jun 10, 2019
    Another children's book series adapted into a potential movie franchise? Ugh!!! Directed by Eli Roth?? Wha??!! So in this story (originally published in 1973 so it predates a lot of most children's book movie adaptations), a young boy named Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) goes to live with his uncle John (Jack Black) in his large creepy [i]Addams Family[/i] style house after his parents are killed in a car accident. From the outset it's pretty clear that all is not quite right within this house. Unsurprisingly the boy's uncle turns out to be a warlock, a good warlock, and his best friend Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) is a good witch. Eventually Lewis grows accustomed to his new supernatural surroundings and begins to learn the ways of witchcraft. Unsurprisingly Lewis finds out that the old house was once owned by an evil warlock called Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan) who has hidden a clock within the walls of the house. He has done this because he wants to turn back time to the point that mankind never existed and the hidden clock will somehow allow that to happen via some magical alignment or something, I dunno. Of course this can't happen because Isaac has been long dead and buri...oh the young boy disobeys his uncle's orders and uses a magical book to cast a spell which raises Isaac from the dead. Of course. So what does this movie offer that we haven't seen before? Rhetorical questions my dears. Yep this movie offers [b]nothing[/b], quite literally nothing. Am I being harsh? No I genuinely don't think so. The highlight of the movie is clearly and obviously Jack Black as Lewis' uncle. Yes even though we have seen these kinds of Black performances before they are undoubtedly enjoyable every time. Whilst they have clearly tried to give Black a kind of Dr. Strange-esque/Vincent Price-esque look and quality which does actually fail, it's still charming. The way Black interacts with his spooky house is a fun element. The rest of the cast are drab predictable and uninteresting whilst the villain could have been played by literally anyone because it really didn't matter. There is a coming of age element in the story with Lewis' parents not being there and him having to learn to come to terms with that and his uncle. There is also the usual school bullying aspect thrown in there too and Lewis making friends with a random kid who helps him. It doesn't turn out the way you expect it admittedly but it's not groundbreaking stuff. Will kids pick up on it? Maybe, maybe not, I lean towards them being interested in the flashy effects more than anything. Other than Black the only other element I did like was the 50's setting in a typical all-American 50's small town (or so it looked). Yeah we've seen this before but there is something so cozy and charming about these kinds of settings. A warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia even though I wasn't even alive at the time. I think it's down to all the old sci-fi and horror movies I've seen and enjoyed from that specific era that draws me in. Obviously I'm not alone in this because many of these kids flicks tend to have these small town settings. The interior house sets were also a plus for me with their thick wooden design and gorgeous old-worldly supernatural decorations. I [b]love[/b] a good solid well dressed period-set haunted house. But that is also the problem with this movie, it just feels too similar to so many other movies. To be more specific, this movie basically feels like another [i]Goosebumps[/i] movie. I mean its literally the same spiel with the same lead actor! The special effects look no different, the same obvious CGI throughout. The various monsters and creatures could easily be straight out of said franchise. It's all the same, if Slappy had turned up it wouldn't have looked a bit unusual at all. The plot also didn't really help. I have not read the original book so I cannot say how accurate everything is, but Jez is this a mess. The evil witch wants to rewind time right back to a point where he can stop mankind from ever happening, but why?? Why would anyone want to actually do that if they could? Wouldn't that mean that the evil witch himself wouldn't exist? What would he gain from this? Then there was a whole load of hocus-pocus about the clock in the wall turning back time so he can erase mankind or whatever. What's so special about that clock? Why hide it in the house? Then the lower half of the house (which seems to get bigger and bigger the further into the movie, like the Tardis) turns into a big clock of sorts with huge cogs and gears which gets stopped by merely dropping a magic 8-ball into them. I mean I realise this is a kids movie but it's just too meh and despite being based on a book, it's completely the same as many other kid flicks. I mean how many supernatural children's movies have there been now?? (all trying to ride the coattails of [i]Harry Potter[/i]). Heck even the movies poster isn't much to shout about and it looks fairly derivative. The plot is boring and makes no sense. The visual effects are terrible (CGI baby Jack Black?) but the actual sets are top banana. Black is good but much like everything else here too familiar. And lastly there's no real tension because the villain and his plan is utter nonsense. This basically felt like a Poundland/DollarTree [i]Harry Potter[/i] and the third generic sequel in the [i]Goosebumps[/i] franchise.
    Phil H Super Reviewer
  • Jan 20, 2019
    There was a couple of instances over the course of The House with a Clock in Its Walls, particularly early on, that had my hopes up, but by the end? God I was so disappointed. The lead is not a great actor (often a trouble when you have to cast young), and the effects are pretty bad. The worst thing though is that Clock in Its Walls can't keep its story straight, which is a pretty unforgivable sin when it's your own story. Like, you set the rules here, why are you going out of your way to break them for nothing?
    Gimly M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 15, 2018
    A fairly good "scary" tale for children with a "being oddball can be a good thing" message, fronted by top-tier talent (yes, I'm beginning to forgive Jack Black for being annoying!) that actually share nice chemistry together. A professional production that might require time to be appreciated as it should.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 10, 2018
    Eli Rothï¿ 1/2(TM)s The House with a Clock in Its Walls, despite being a straight-up kids movie with a release date in the dead of September, was one of my most anticipated films of the fall if not of the entire year. Despite the obvious warning signs though, I think itï¿ 1/2(TM)s actually pretty easy to see why this was the case. First, there is Jack Black who has done well to understand the current phase of his career; with last year's Jumanji sequel as well as Goosebumps he is slowly establishing himself as the guy that will be fondly remembered by the tweens and younger teens of the current generation as that funny guy who was in all of their favorite movies. Better even, when those same kids get older they can go back and discover more of Black's rather impressive collection of work. Another encouraging factor going in was the fact this was a kids movie with Cate freakin' Blanchett in it. Now, Blanchett has been doing more work in more commercially viable popcorn flicks as of late with the last Thor film and Ocean's 8, but it seemed it would take a really great script or great character to really entice an actor of her caliber. Blanchett certainly seems to be having a great time exploring the genre, but unfortunately she doesnï¿ 1/2(TM)t have nearly as much to do as one would expect sans the excellent bickering back and forth between her and Black. This cast, this genre, this time of year...what more could there be that might help propel this project to the heights it seemed so obviously destined to reach? I say this somewhat ironically as it seems most critics and audiences didn't expect much from another kid-centric Black film-especially one based on a children's book from the seventies and especially not one directed by the guy who made 2018's Death Wish, but we are. As someone who has always adored Black's range and versatility there was this sense of optimism and support, but the point of concern was always Roth. Roth is a director raised on the Amblin films that are very clearly an inspiration for his The House with a Clock in Its Walls, but unfortunately Roth's homage to spooky if not exactly scary kids fare doesn't pass that test of being a magical film about magical people. The finished product can certainly be endearing for long stretches, but the big picture never gels and is more a hodge-podge of several different "chosen one" archetypes than it is a single, focused, and satisfying narrative. And though The House with a Clock in Its Walls proved to be more disappointing than hoped for itï¿ 1/2(TM)s not impossible to see how the film might become more appealing over time-especially to the generation that will grow up on it. read the whole review at
    Philip P Super Reviewer

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