Spooky House | Chicago Reader

Spooky House

A travesty. Director Williams Sachs and his wife, Margaret, scripted this hackneyed, touchy-feely fantasy about a magician (Ben Kingsley) who loathes children but is enticed from his secluded haunt back into society by an orphan. The formulaic material might have clicked in the practiced hand of Robert Zemeckis, but Sachs turns most scenes into pumped-up antics, some of them accompanied by pointless, treacly songs. The endless transition shots of the magician's mansion against a threatening sky further betray the director's lack of imagination. In keeping with the times, the five kids who befriend the magician are ethnically diverse and Net-savvy, while the trio of teenagers who torment them are out-of-control punks. Kingsley elevates a caricatured part with a degree of dignity and sadness; far less attentive to her work is Mercedes Ruehl, who plays the villainess as Cruella De Vil on a bad acid trip. 106 min.

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