2 1/2 Stars
It focuses exclusively on the childhood portion of author Stephen King’s gargantuan 1,138-page novel, that was first published back in 1986. Ironically, that was the same year Rob Reiner’s adaptation of King’s novella, The Body, was released to critical acclaim. A film that It aspires to be. The adulation of 1980’s pop culture is at its nadir in 2017, and It shows signs of being heavily inspired by Spielberg’s classics from the era, Netflix’s Stranger Things, and about half dozen other influences. That doesn’t make it a bad film, it just comes with an aura of pandering and feels late to the game. It is a tale of two halves and that’s the case with this film. The first hour is remarkably skillful filmmaking that rightly evokes nostalgia, sympathy, and unease. The second hour is flat, routine, and lacking any sense of dread.
The children in a small Maine town are disappearing at an alarming rate and no one seems to notice in the box-office smash, It. The story is set during the summer of 1989, nicely evoked through a detailed art design, Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) is the leader of a collection of kids dubbed “The Losers Club”, all bullied, picked-on, or shamed by the town’s resident bad seed, Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton). During the course of summer break, the group decides to go and try to locate Bill’s missing brother, Georgie, who disappeared down a storm drain 8 months prior.
They say half of directing is in the casting and helmer Andy Muschietti has done an outstanding job in assembling a flawless cast. The main kids are delightful, unforced, foul-mouthed, little personalities that never veer into the obnoxious. The supporting cast is filled with actors that make you cringe at their despicable nature, human or otherwise. Most are aware of the central figure of evil incarnate in the form of a demonic clown named, Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård). But the clown isn’t really frightening or interesting, and the lack of any genuine scares or jump moments becomes disappointing by the film’s lengthy 135-minute running time.
Stephen King’s best works, and conversely his best film adaptations, have always focused on the horrors that people do to one another. The supernatural aspects of his library aren’t nearly as compelling as his malicious characters. A miscalculation was made in moving the time period to the decade of excess. The original story was an early 1960’s set tale, which makes the actions of Bowers a bit more understandable than the more constrained 1980’s. The 1990’s television miniseries is a different entity that shouldn’t be compared to the 2017 incarnation, it’s like comparing the Matt Damon starring Bourne Identity to the Richard Chamberlin television miniseries, it just ain’t right.The under-18 set will, of course, find their way into auditoriums screening It. Perhaps it will spur them to seek out better iterations on this theme and story. That movie’s called, Stand By Me.
Director: Andy Muschietti
Stars: Bill Skarsgård, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jaeden Lieberher