The House with a Clock in its Walls

Rated 3.0

In a colorful 1950s Michigan, a young orphan (Owen Vaccaro) goes to live with his uncle (Jack Black); before long it becomes clear that the uncle and his next door neighbor (Cate Blanchett) are some sort of wizard/witch combination, and they are searching for something that seems to be hidden in the uncle’s vast, weird house. Written by Eric Kripke (from John Bellairs’ YA novel) and directed by Eli Roth on kid-friendly good behavior, this unabashed Harry Potter clone is enjoyable enough, thanks to Black’s campy theatricality and Blanchett’s sly minimalism. The elaborate story is serviceable without being compelling—something about Black’s supposedly deceased stage-magician partner (Kyle MacLachlan). It’s diverting but derivative, clearly intended to launch a franchise—which may or may not materialize.