Based on the 1973 novel by John Bellairs, “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” is a fantastical family thriller starring warlocks and witches, two of whom are Jonathon, played by Jack Black, and Mrs. Zimmerman, played by Cate Blanchett. New to this mysterious world is 10-year-old Lewis, played by Owen Vaccaro, who, after the loss of his parents, lives with his Uncle Jonathon.
The magical world that this family is intertwined with is surrounded by the daily lives of normal people, some of whom are Lewis’s classmates, including one boy he tries to befriend by performing his newly learned magic. However, things go awry when Lewis rises one of the most powerful and dangerous warlocks back from the dead, and he needs to use his own style of magic to help his uncle and save humans from nonexistence.
At first look of the trailer for this movie, my initial thought was “Harry Potter.” Witches and wizards — or sorry, warlocks — sure looked and sounded like some of J.K. Rowling’s creations. Of course, this movie wasn’t set in Britain, so it was more of an American version of the good old “Harry Potter” series. Even so, the magic wasn’t as complex or even as entertaining as in the Chosen One’s stories, but it did involve a young boy who wanted to learn some magic.
Multiple comparisons could be made to the “Harry Potter” series, too, as if the scriptwriter had a bit of trouble coming up with his own spells and jinxes. Even though not many verbal spells were used in this movie, there were quite a few nonverbal ones that mimicked ones you’d learn at Hogwarts. The transfiguration spell and “Wingardium Leviosa” are just two examples of similar tricks you can find Lewis practicing in the film; although, they do not go as planned and end quite humorously.
Another feat I noticed was a striking resemblance between the effect of a Polyjuice Potion in “Harry Potter” and a witch’s transformation into other women in “The House with a Clock in Its Walls.” The Polyjuice Potion is way more complex than the body morphing done here, but it had the same result, aside from wearing off after a period of time.
Other elements can be seen throughout the movie that will remind you of everyone’s favorite wizard, like the decor around the house. Of course, by now, it’s clear that any wizard and witch movie created after Rowling’s fantasies will include at least some comparable elements, because Rowling thoughtfully brought many to life already. Don’t get me wrong, “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” added its own spin on magic, as I’m sure other magic-enhanced movies will in the future.
Since Black was one of the main actors in this eerie movie and has recently been in another one, I noted that the film included magical objects alike to those in the 2015 “Goosebumps,” which he starred in. Different storylines are definitely present when comparing the two films: In “Goosebumps,” the main characters had to capture the monsters back into their books, and in “The House with a Clock in Its Walls,” they had to fight off the monsters with magic. However, they also have many similarities, as each of which deals with creatures that have been created.
Straightaway, I noticed the puppet from “Goosebumps” in this movie, but it was a bit different in design and didn’t talk. It wasn’t as creepy as the original one, but it did want to attack the characters, so obviously it wasn’t a cute puppet. Within that scene, other objects, including other puppets and mannequins, began attacking Lewis, Uncle Jonathon and Mrs. Zimmerman. Many movies involve attacks like this one, but it did seem oddly familiar, much like the evil gnomes in a scene from “Goosebumps.”
Another creature that looked like it could have popped out of the R.L. Stine film was the winged lion made out of hedges who turned evil after Lewis performed the dark magic. It attacked after the jack-o’-lanterns did, which also looked like the gnome scene. In fact, it resembled the gummy bear scene that is shown in the trailer of the sequel, “Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween.” Of course, the jack-o’-lanterns themselves reminded me of this new sequel because it’s Halloween.
Also in the 2015 “Goosebumps” was a carnival that had a fun house with a vampire mouth entryway, and how does that relate to “The House with a Clock in Its Walls”? Well, you guessed it. Jack Black walked into a similar doorway in the house in this new movie. Yeah, he had to figure out how to get the mouth to open, unlike the movie he was previously in, but it was the same nonetheless.
All movies originate from great ideas, and some rely on older ones for some inspiration. “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” had its special plot and characters, but viewers can see that a mixture of effects, characters and spells had been created from some prior movie-watching. “Harry Potter” and “Goosebumps” are just two movies that are clearly incorporated into the film; maybe you can spot elements from others. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and “Ghostbusters” could probably be found in a character or two as well.
Indeed, the movie was entertaining, more so for the younger audiences than the older magic-lovers, and in ways, it was a new take on “Harry Potter” for young wizards and witches. But, if you are expecting a story like Harry’s or R.L. Stine’s, with lots of actions and creatures, then you will be disappointed. It certainly is a mellowed-down version of the two movies combined, all with its own perspective on a warlock’s world.