The original 1990 TV adaptation of Stephen King’s “IT” was not very good. However, Tim Curry’s portrayal of the evil clown, Pennywise was the stuff that nightmares are made of. Curry alone is the only reason to ever go and revisit the series. Thanks to the huge success of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” series, “IT” is now headed to the big screen and there is a whole lot here to like.
First off, the direction and tone is hugely inspired by “Stranger Things”, which is why I believe if that series didn’t exist, this new version of “IT” wouldn’t either. This is actually a good thing. Much like that series, “IT” is set in the 1980’s. Both are centered on a group of misfits, and both are more focused on the characters than anything else. There is a reason “Strangers Things” is as beloved as it is.
Although I feel “IT” does lack scares, it more than makes up for this in great characters and great fun. The chemistry between the Losers Club is where the film shines brightest. Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Mike (Chosen Jacobs), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Stanley (Wyatt Oleff), and the only girl in the group, Beverly (Sophia Lillis) are so enjoyable to watch. There is a whole lot more humor here then I would have expected. Fans of 1986’s “Stand by Me” will also sense some familiarity.
Trying to top Curry’s Penywise is a nearly impossible feat, but much like the various versions of the Joker in the “Batman” films, Bill Skarsgård is able to make the character his own. I never found myself comparing him to Curry and that is one of the best compliments you can give to an actor.
My biggest issue with “IT” is that I just didn’t find it all that scary, but has its’ moments. One of the best takes place while the children are watching a slide show. Another one is when Stanley is trying to avoid a painting in his father’s office. Many audience members during the screening I attended were screaming, so maybe my tolerance for terror is much higher, but I found last month’s “Annabelle Creation” to have more jumps than “IT”.
Even with the lack of frights, “IT” works great as a coming-of-age film with a cast that knocks it out of the park. Director Andy Muschietti who gave us 2013’s “Mama” knows how to deliver a beautiful looking horror film. I am very much looking forward to Chapter Two and can’t wait to see who is cast as the adult versions of these characters.
By: Marc Ferman