[ADAPTATIONS] The House with a Clock in its Walls turns an underwhelming children’s book into an entertaining film


Taken from UniversalPictures.com

The House with a Clock in its Walls is an entertaining film for the whole family.

The House with a Clock in its Walls is a 1973 children’s book by John Bellairs. It tells the story of Lewis Barnavelt, a young orphan who goes to live with his warlock uncle. The novel is the first in a series of seventeen books about the life of Lewis Barnavelt and his uncle. Unfortunately, the book makes the mistake of spending too much time setting up the series, and not enough time telling a good story on its own.

The book itself is quite short- hardly anything happens in the story. Any conflict introduced in the narrative is quickly dealt with or ignored entirely, and the climax is underwhelming, with there being almost no consequences for any of the characters by the end of the book.

Although it attempts to set up the world of the series, by the end, there is little given about the characters or how the universe works. The little story that is in the book is mostly clichéd and for the most part, unoriginal. There are many children’s books on similar premises that are far better.

The film of the same name, which was released in theatres on Sept. 21, tells a story better than the book did. The visuals are stunning, although quite fake looking sometimes, and the screenplay takes what was originally an unengaging children’s book and turns it into the almost an original story while still resembling the source material.

At first glance, it appears the movie only keeps the bare bones of the original book, but the book hardly had anything more than a skeleton of a story. The film fleshes out the plot and gives much more time to character development, conflict, and comedy. Everything seems to be more extreme in the film, including the stakes of the final climax. The climax of the book seemed to come out of nowhere and happened rather suddenly, whereas the film builds up to it throughout the story and adds extra incentive for the main characters, and explains a much better motivation for the villains.

The dark comedy in the film is clearly helped by the enjoyable performances from Jack Black and Cate Blanchett. Black is seen in movies like Jumanji and School of Rock, and Blanchett in Ocean’s Eight and a number of The Lord of the Rings movies. The two add dimension to characters that were really just outlines or characters in the book, as well as bring a lighthearted tone to contrast the dark storyline. Their characters, especially Blanchett’s, are given much more in terms of backstory, making their acting choices clear and purposeful.

The House with a Clock in its Walls is an enjoyable movie and a drag of a book. Most audiobooks for the original novel are around four hours, but the same story can be experienced in less than half the time by watching the movie, which is overall much better. With a creative and visually interesting style, clever comedy, fun performances, and an engaging story, The House with a Clock in its Walls is an entertaining film for the whole family.

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