I know I’m rather late to the part with a review of this most excellent diesel-steam movie, but it has only just appeared on Netflix (in Belgium); a fine time to remind the world that this fine film is indeed out there.
First of all, I have not yet read the book, so I couldn’t say how well it has translated to screen. But I will say that regardless of its written word origins, this film is everything I expect from a genre film. It’s adventurous, fun, there’s magic and mischief and monsters coupled with a setting that is both dieselpunk and steampunk. Set in the 1950s, it has that splendid midcentury feel with fashions of the era, oldtimer cars and diners.
Aside from that, it also has a magical house, a sentient chair, warlocks and witches and bad guys. It is wholesome, the kind of movie that makes you smile — and we could all do with more of that these days.
All the actors do an amazing job portraying their characters. Jack Black has been perfectly cast as the oddball uncle Jonathan Barnavelt (but playing lovable oddballs seems to be Black’s forté). The same can be said of Cate Blanchett in the role of the purple-loving witch Florence Zimmerman and Owen Vaccaro as the young lead, Lewis. The combination of the right cast, impressive visuals and a fine story make this so good, and for sure a movie I would recommend.