A few people weeks ago we saw “A House with a Clock in its Walls” – an adaption of the 1973 MG chapterbook. The movie stars Cate Blanchett and Jack Black.
It was adorable, though … I think it would have given me nightmares as a child. Night terrors run in my family and to this day, I quite easily have them – though I try to limit the fuel for them right before I go to sleep. (See the P.S. if you have nightmares!)
1 – Nostalgic Setting
The setting in the late 50s (maybe early 60s) makes me wonder if this was what my dad’s childhood was like. Plaid shirts, parted hair, black and white movies, fantastic cars, and quaint architecture scream mid 20th century. It feels like Norman Rockwell meets Harry Potter with a touch of campy horror tropes, though the book was written long before Harry Potter.
It also takes me back to my childhood. I read other books by this author but nothing in this series.
2 – Diverse Characters
I was so happy to see a beautiful, smart pan-Asian girl (Rose Rita Pottinger played by Vanessa Anne Williams). I expected an all white cast, and was happily surprised to find people who weren’t white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. There are also older characters in this film – Jack Black plays his uncle (Jonathan Barnavelt) with a complex relationship to the all gray Mrs. Zimmerman (played by Cate Blanchett). The characters are all dealt with positively in my opinion. I despise children’s narratives that cast adults supporting roles as being incompetent, aloof, or unkind. These characters were not like that.
3 – Strong Message
Most people want to be liked. This is part of our inherent quest for happiness. Unfortunately, the main character, Lewis, goes too far in his effort to impress someone and unleashed an evil that could wipe out the world.
He faces up to his mistake and works to save the day. Not only does he right his wrong, but he learns about real friends along the way.
4 – Humor
While there was plenty of Halloween themed creepy elements- jack o’ lanterns & creepy dolls – there are also plenty of jokes to bring levity and lighten the mood.
It’s child appropriate humor, but … that’s great because it’s a movie for kids. Sometimes I’ve heard parents complain about innuendo in movies for kids – they hear people laugh, don’t understand why it’s funny, and then children repeat the jokes.
In conclusion: This was a cute, lighthearted movie that I enjoyed more than I thought I would.
Is it a replacement for Harry Potter? No. Where the Harry Potter series is an epic that spans from his pre-pubescence to adolescence, I have the feeling these books stay at the MG level. At least other books I read by John Bellairs were all MG chapter books.
At the same time, I hope they’ll adapt additional books from this series for the big screen.
If you suffer from nightmares, know that there actually is a medication for this: prazosin. This is not its original use (hypertension), but in a very low dose it suppresses you waking from nightmares, which means that while they’re still there, you don’t remember them.
I don’t know how many doctors I mentioned my nightmares to over the years. They were generally treated as a symptom of insomnia. A few years ago, when I wasn’t a new mother and had excellent sleep hygiene, I mentioned this to a nurse practitioner who said, “Oh, you have sleep maintenance insomnia – you can’t stay asleep because… nightmares. We’ll fix you up.”
Before that I had no idea there was anything that could be done for nightmares. If you have nightmares, maybe this would work for you. Also … it’s an older medication and the generic is very inexpensive. It might be worth the try.
I was worried that this would make me feel like a different person or less creative, but it didn’t. I just slept better. I can’t take it now because I’m lactating, but look forward to the day I can resume it.
Either way, sweet dreams!