It

itSTARS2The sentimental nostalgia for the childhood age has often been romanticized to edifying effect in the movies. Take a group of charismatic kids in a small town and have them bond during the summer united over a common objective. They’re linked by their “loser” status and a distrust of adults that don’t support them. The Netflix TV series Stranger Things mined this construct recently. Certain classics like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Goonies, and Stand By Me, did this incredibly well. The latter, appropriately enough, was also based on a story by Stephen King. Other films do this really badly, which brings us to the latest Stephen King adaptation.

It is a chronicle frustratingly lacking in substance. Who or rather what “It” is, is kept somewhat ambiguous. There isn’t any explanation as to how he came to be. He simply exists. He appears as a circus clown named Pennywise to six-year-old Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott) when the paper boat he’s floating sails down the gutter. The clown peering from the sewer as a set of glowing yellow eyes. It’s an effective image and the most creepy bit in the whole doggone story. Soon after little Georgie goes missing. His brother Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) ends up leading a gang of outsiders who go in search of the missing boy. As it shuffles along, each child will each have their own encounter with Pennywise.

The youngsters aren’t personalities so much as archetypes. There’s Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), the overweight boy, Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), the hypochondriac who believes he has asthma, Richie (Finn Wolfhard) the foul mouthed one who wears glasses, the Jewish kid Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) and the lone girl, Beverly ( Sophia Lillis), on whom Eddie has a crush. Homeschooled Mike (Chosen Jacobs) is the only black kid. He’s the last to join the group when the gang saves him from local bullies in a rock fight. These seven misfits eventually band together and refer to themselves as “The Losers Club.” It’s sad that each one can so easily be reduced to a physical trait but that’s the depth of characterization this screenplay affords us. The story lacks the desire to slowly develop characters with nuanced personalities that engender our sympathy.  Interestingly three people (Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman) are credited with this adaptation.

There’s a good reason that the title is denoted as “It” and not “Him” for Pennywise is actually a shape-shifting entity that manifests itself as whatever scares you most. For most of the adventure, we get the clown, a part embodied by Bill Skarsgård that also relies on CGI and sonically enhanced vocals. At various times, the creature becomes other things: a headless boy, a creepy painting come to life and a rotting leper that chases Eddie. One particularly bizarre scene has Beverly’s own hair pulling her toward the sink drain as she is covered in an eruption of blood that coats the bathroom. A roomful of blood recalls The Shining. That was scary. It is not. For all his shape-shifting tendencies, we rarely see Pennywise kill anyone which makes him pretty ineffective. Tim Curry’s portrayal in the made for TV movie is iconic at this point. Bill Skarsgård’s version, by comparison, is sorely lacking.

It is a fable about children. So if you can’t be frightening, why not go for the emotion? Set in 1989 in the town of Derry, Maine, the setup would be the perfect setting for a PG rated nostalgic amalgamation of amiable moppets who triumph over a bad clown in an uplifting tale. Except it’s an R rated trudge through the muck of very real world evil. The little ones are surrounded by a distressing lot of sociopaths with behavioral disorders. The town bullies are disturbingly sadistic. Their leader Henry (Nicholas Hamilton) carves his initials in Ben’s portly stomach. The parents are either apathetic, callous or abusive. Beverly’s father is prone to lustful advances that suggest he is a pedophile. A leering pharmacist makes lascivious comments toward the same girl. If only Pennywise the clown was half as scary as the congregation of adults in this community. What a collection of reprobates.

It is supremely unfocused. Apparently, Argentine film director Andrés Muschietti thinks more is more. This dismal account is a disorganized jumble of stock characters and situations. The developments are strung together loosely without the willingness to captivate the audience. As a result, the vignettes just feel like an assemblage of horror cliches haphazardly thrown together. The narrative lacks the patience to allow the plot to slowly evolve organically – a key component in establishing an engaging story.  It becomes an episodic sequence of “so this happened and then this happened” and on to the end. As a result, this so-called “scary movie” never becomes anything even remotely terrifying.

Where It truly works best is in the humor department where the jokes do add a much-needed levity. A running gag involving boy band New Kids on the Block is very funny. Unfortunately, the laughs are a temporary respite from a mostly dour tale. It is a really ugly film. A stridently R rated, kid cussing, blood gushing mess with innocent children at the center. The juxtaposition makes you feel dirty. I get that it’s supposed to detail unpleasant things. It’s a horror movie. But even the scariest flicks contrast all the negativity with a glimmer of optimism underneath. The saga fails to gives us enough hope. I wasn’t scared but the atmosphere did make me feel icky though. I wanted to take a harsh shower when I got home to scrub off the contamination.

09-07-17

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16 Responses to “It”

  1. smilingldsgirl Says:

    I probably will skip this one with the violence and profanity. My brother did tell me that he loved it but didn’t think I would so anyway I try to take in a lot of opinions and trust my gut. My brother and friends all seemed to love it so I thought it was interesting to read a different perspective. I only know one other person who didn’t like it.

    • Cool. I’m definitely not part of the majority who loved this. What did you find interesting? 🤔

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        I don’t know. I just like reading criticism even if I’m not seeing a film. I always have since I was a little girl and I often like to read both positive and negative arguments on a film. I didn’t know that he wasn’t always the clown and hadn’t heard that about the adults being awful. Some had almost convinced me to see it but I don’t think so.

      • Yeah, a lot of people try to convince others to see a movie. The purpose of my reviews are never to tell someone to SEE or DON’T SEE a movie. They’re to provide the reader enough information so they can make an informed decision.

        Obviously, a lot of (most?) people don’t have a problem with the story elements I describe here. This explains why many people still enjoy this film.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Ok. Well, I will let you know if I change my mind. Anyway, great review. I enjoyed reading it.

      • Thanks! Appreciate the discussion.

  2. It Connor Kunz Says:

    Interesting perspective. I makes me incredibly sad that the R rating is starting to be exploited for the sake of high box office returns. (Here’s looking at you Deadpool and Logan.) A grisly, graphic movie needs to have a heart behind the blood and guts.

    • I agree this movie needs heart. I’m not sure if it’s just about the R rating but in this particular film about young children, it felt sleazy. It’s all about context.

  3. smilingldsgirl Says:

    My brother did tell me that he loved it but didn’t think I would so anyway I try to take in a lot of opinions and trust my gut. Probably won’t see it

  4. Nice point about “IT” just existing, coming out of nowhere with little explanation. I’ve never read the book, but I presume that it goes into the backstory of IT and the town of Derry more in-depth? IT appearing didn’t bother me too much, but I do think an opportunity was missed to delve more into why Derry is so weird/cursed and the tie to IT.

    Overall, I liked this movie and think it’s pretty good, even worth “event viewing” status (117 million seems to confirm this, never imagined that performance for this movie but it probably shows how starved people were for something big lol), but it isn’t perfect.

    • As far as box office is concerned, ‘It‘ certainly was an event. This blew last year’s biggest hit at this time out of the water. Sully made a $125M total for the entire season. ‘It‘ made $117M in one weekend.

  5. What a collection of reprobates in-freaking-deed. I was reserving comment on this until I had seen it. Now I have seen ‘It,’ and, likewise, I couldn’t give a sh*t. Lol!

  6. Not scary, at all. I thought it was just ok. A couple of the kids were fun, but overall, just meh. Original was better. 3 stars

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