The Morning After: Sep. 24, 2018

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

The House with a Clock in Its Walls

The combination of Jack Black and Cate Blanchett would typically give one hope for a fun time, but in the hands of horror director Eli Roth, the whole affair struggles against its own worst impulses.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls is based on a 1973 book of the same name about a young orphan who moves into his uncle’s house where a clock hidden within the walls of the house ticks down the time towards a potentially catastrophic event. Black plays the uncle, Jonathan Barnavelt, a mediocre warlock who wants to protect Lewis (Owen Vaccaro), but doesn’t quite know how to be an effective parent. Blanchett plays their next door neighbor Florence Zimmerman whose own abilities have dwindled in the wake of a tragedy she doesn’t want to speak about.

What Roth did with Hostel was solid genre filmmaking, but here he seems out of his depths, trying to infuse a frightening tale with sufficient comedy to keep the audience entertained. He excels in those moments where his creepy aesthetic bolsters the story, but let’s jokes fall flat when they should punch the audience right in the funny bone. Some of the humor is crass, but harmless, other times, it’s just crass. Black’s performance feels strangely out of place in the film while Blanchett is given far too little to do for her talents. Kyle MacLachlan does well as the former owner of the house while Renée Elise Goldsberry overplays her role late in the film.

This is a film that was targeted at children, but which features some scenes that are questionably appropriate for them. Meanwhile, the adults who must attend with their children will be frustrated at times because there often isn’t enough to engage their minds. It’s a film with good intentions that struggles to avoid a few thematic traps and unhealthy bits of sexism.

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