Cert 12A 104mins Stars 4

Jack Black stars as a warlock full of tricks in this early Halloween treat of frighteningly entertaining family fun.

With expert comic timing he conjures up plenty of crowd-pleasing magical mayhem in this charming, funny and nicely scary supernatural adventure, based on the popular children’s book by John Bellairs.

As kindly uncle Jonathan to ten-year-old orphan, Lewis, Black sees all hell breaks lose when his nephew secretly uses magic in an attempt to gain popularity at school, and inadvertently unleashes a demonic force in the form of Kyle MacLachan’s deceased evil sorcerer.

This sets the clock ticking on the end of the world, and to prevent it Jonathan and Lewis team up with their neighbour. Suitably dressed in regal purple the imperiously talented Cate Blanchett resembles Mary Poppins’ stylish older sister, and enjoys herself immensely as the brolly-wielding witch.

Blanchett and Black are an unlikely and seemingly mismatched double act but have a sparky chemistry, while Owen Vaccaro gives a bright and articulate performance as Lewis, and is never upstaged by his illustrious co-stars.

After contributing enormously to the huge success of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, early this year and having unveiled his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this week, Black’s career is recovering it’s sparkle.

And although director Eli Roth filmed this year’s woeful remake of Death Wish starring Bruce Willis, he’s recovered strongly with this latest effort and is careful to be faithful to the tone and intention of the source material.

His film bursts with warm nostalgia for the 1950’s US small town setting, typical enough for a film co-produced by Steven Spielberg’s company, Amblin.

Populated with pet-like living furniture and self playing musical instruments, kids will love the handsomely designed house where the action takes place, and they’ll totally agree with the story’s premise that chocolate chip cookies have the power to soothe any problem.

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