Review / ‘The House with a Clock in its Walls’ (PG) *** and a half

BASED on the first novel by the late John Bellairs yet filmed and adapted by Eric Kripke, and directed by Eric Roth, this gothic supernatural thriller merits its PG classification for all the best reasons.

The story is not too complex for young minds to comprehend. The film’s dramatic environment is not too spooky to damage them emotionally. Its visual values are simple without descending to a kindergarten level. Its issue doesn’t deter a small but well-formed cast.

“The House with a Clock in its Walls” is pure entertainment for all double-digit ages. Watching it took me back to childhood’s Saturday matinees of that required me to find and sell a dozen empty soft-drink bottles for a penny each to buy a movie ticket.

After his parents die in a car accident, 10-year-old Lewis travels to a small town to live with his uncle Jonathan. It’s a strange house, filled with clocks, assorted bric-a-brac and books about magic, with a lion-shaped topiary gryphon keeping guard at the front steps.

Lewis’ life is divided into school, where initially he has a tough time until he, and we, begin to see him develop powers that normal kids just don’t naturally possess. Eventually, Jonathan recognises that like him, Lewis is a warlock. And what better place than this eccentric old house to hone the skills that every warlock needs.

Naturally, there’s a back story, of evil and danger, depending on the clock hidden somewhere in the house that ticks and ticks and ticks… Why? Finding out is great fun for all ages to discover.

Leaving the best for last. Jonathan has a partner, the witch Florence, of indomitable strength of character. Playing her is a luminously lovely Cate Blanchett as the backbone of an ensemble cast together with Jack Black as Jonathan and Ówen Vaccaro as Lewis. It’s an unexpected mix of performers that works well.

At Dendy, Palace Electric, Capitol 6, Hoyts Belconnen and Limelight

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