Young orphan Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) goes to live with his uncle Jonathan (Jack Black), who happens to be a warlock with a magically creepy old house. There's a dangerous clock hidden in the walls that will have dire
consequences if it's not found. Jonathan and witch neighbor Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) enlist Lewis' help in finding the elusive timepiece before something bad happens. The clock is ticking.

A witchy brew of laughs and chills energizes this family Halloween treat. Produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, it feels like one of his films. But it's directed by Eli Roth, who wanders from
his R-rated comfort zone of "Hostel" and other horrors into the much softer PG
territory. He still manages to scare up a few jolts within the magic and humor. One sequence of smashing pumpkins (not Billy Corgan's band) contains both jumps and chuckles. A mostly good cast and some dazzling special effects, including a rather animated chair and a moving/changing painting, keep things interesting. Jack Black does what he does best: Jack Black. Cate Blanchett is simply bewitching. There's chemistry between the twosome - especially when they trade hilariously insulting one-liners back and forth. A downside is an unconvincing performance by youngster Owen Vaccaro ("Daddy's Home"). His ups and downs spoil the fun at times. Kyle MacLachlan and Renée Elise Goldsberry are spooky as Isaac and Selena Izard, the house's presumed dead former owners. Isaac was Jonathan's old partner in a magic act. Also entertaining are Colleen Camp playing a nosey neighbor and Sunny Suljic as a questionable new school friend of Lewis. Eric Kripke's script, based on John Bellairs’ novel, is occasionally clunky and familiar. But there's enough fun along the way. "The House with a Clock in Its Walls" is filled with hocus pocus and goosebumps. (3/5 CAMS)

Rated PG (thematic elements including sorcery, some action, scary images, rude humor and language)
Running Time: 105 minutes

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