I felt compelled to reread this after seeing the godawful trailer for the new film. I ended up reading it aloud to my husband over the course of a few nights. The book is still wonderful. I've linked to book reviews for the Lewis Barnavelt Trilogy at the bottom.
I thought I was over getting nerdrage at bad book to film translations, but those trailers made me see red. 'A House with a Clock in It's Walls' is a meandering book about a lonely, scared boy finding a place for himself in his new family after his parent's death, and, above all, learning about true courage and friendship.
Tonally, aesthetically, and factually this movie has missed the mark. I know its only a trailer, but trailers these days seem to show the whole damn film. The casting is terrible. Lewis is some Hollywood kid instead of the weepy (his parents are DEAD, remember?), overweight bookish loner. Jack Black is all crazy googly-eyed as Uncle Jonathan. Mrs. Zimmerman instead of being the "wrinkliest" woman Lewis has ever seen, all smile lines, is played by Cate Blanchett with a silver wig. What a missed opportunity to bring back some great actress with a meaty role for an elderly woman.
Aesthetically, some effort seems to have been made to put it in early postwar America, but the CGI effects are plastered over everything and used for cheap laughs - complimented by bad dialogue.
Tonally, this was a book filled with gentle humor balanced with atmospheric dread and real scares. How can there be any balance in this movie?
John Bellairs books are in danger of going out of print - 'Figure in the Shadows' and 'The Letter, the Witch, and The Ring' are already gone. The book and the movie are so different that no kid who liked the movie is going to enjoy the book, creating NO demand for those sequels, and any kid with the sense to hate the movie is going to avoid the book thinking they share some similarities. More bad news: when this movie fails some asinine executive is going to think kids don't like fantasy or scary movies, when they only don't like bullshit.
The Lewis Barnavelt Trilogy:
The House with a Clock in It's Walls
The Figure in the Shadows
The Letter, The Witch, and The Ring