The house with a secret

When I met Jack Black in 2003 for “School of Rock,” I found him to be an approachable and engaging individual. I have followed his career since “Mars Attacks!” in 1996 and was looking forward to the release of “The House with a Clock in Its Walls.”

The film is directed by Eli Roth who has ventured into a cinematic arena I never thought he would pursue: a fun, family film with some nifty horror splashes.

This one finds Jonathan Barnavelt (Black) playing uncle to nephew Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) whose mother recently passed away. Since he was part of the family, the young Barnavelt is sent to live with his uncle.

Jack Black stars in “The House with a Clock in Its Walls.”

Jack Black stars in “The House with a Clock in Its Walls.”

Lewis is an oddball kid, like the one who always gets picked last in gym class. Also part of the family is Cate Blanchett’s Florence Zimmerman, who Jonathan claims is a close platonic friend.

An amusing part of the proceedings is a group of monsters that the actors call “creepy.” They are ominous puppets and mannequins that are spooky and strange.

Kyle MacLachlan plays Isaac Izard, who was Jonathan’s best friend before he went off to war. When he returned, Izard was drawn to the dark side, which put Jonathan in a quandary.

The house is essentially a magic house. It reminds me of the fun 2007 fantasy film “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” with Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman.

Black has a likable on-screen presence that played well in “High Fidelity” (2000), “Tropic Thunder” (2008), “The Holiday” (2000), and one of my favorites, “School of Rock,” directed by Richard Linklater in 2003.

Roth, early on in his career, seemed to churn out nothing more than horror porn. His first feature film was 2002’s “Cabin Fever” that involved a sickness that spread like wildfire. Next came “Hostel” ( 2005) in which rich people pay to inflict bodily harm on innocent victims. Roth also helmed the 2007 follow-up, “Hostel II,” which contained grislier death and dismemberments. Most recently, he delved into adventure-drama-horror porn with 2013’s “The Green Inferno.” A bunch of college kids venture into the Amazon and try to make peace with cannibals in that one.

Unlike those, “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” was as lot of fun and will hopefully spawn a bunch of sequels. I’m sorry, but I think Black’s Poe in “The Kung-Fu Panda” franchise has run its course.

It should be noted that Black recently received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a tourist attraction in Los Angeles.