Film Review – It (2017)
After the dismal throat-punch that was this summer’s The Dark Tower, I feared the worst going into Andy Muschietti‘s It (2017). The trailers and early buzz, while encouraging, were no guarantee of success. Stephen King adaptations are notoriously hit or miss, and the source material here is an awful lot to take on. Imagine my relief in being able to declare It a rousing success. Fun and terrifying in equal measure.
Wisely choosing to focus on only half of King’s behemoth 1986 novel, Muschietti’s vision deals primarily with the self-declared Losers Club, a group of teen misfits who come together to crack wise and thwart evil, both home-grown and fantastical.
In an unsettling and pitch perfect pre-credit sequence, we’re introduced to Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) putting the finishing touches on a paper boat for his little brother Georgie. In his now-trademark rain slicker, Georgie chases the boat, leading him to a storm drain and his ultimate, grisly destiny. Evil awaits poor Georgie in the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård), a shape-shifting demon who reappears every 27 years to feed on Derry children. Suffice it to say, but Georgie, we hardly knew ye. :(
Blaming himself for his brother’s disappearance, Bill sets out to find some answers, and a motley crew of buddies/losers, plagued with their own visions of “it,” join him in his haunted journey.
The most pleasantly surprising aspect of Muschietti’s film is just how damn funny it is. The children he assembled to comprise The Losers Club talk like real kids, which is to say they’re hilariously profane. (It doesn’t earn its R-rating just for the gore and frights, I can assure you.)
There’s Richie (Stranger Things‘ Finn Wolfhard), the bespectacled wiseacre who never met a swear he didn’t like; Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), the chubby kid who draws the ire of bully/menace Henry Bowers; Mike (Chosen Jacobs), coping with terrifying visions of a previous tragedy, Eddie the hypochondriac (Jack Dylan Grazer), and Beverly, a girl with a reputation and implied family trauma.
Nothing shoots a movie in the foot more for me than bad kid actors so I was relieved to relate to the entire group so quickly. The dialogue is never not naturalistic and, again, belly laughs aplenty. It’s like The Goonies if The Goonies took time between quips to be assaulted by a devil clown. Which leads us to the main attraction, Pennywise ‘it’self..
Bill Skarsgård surely knew he had some big clown shoes to fill after Tim Curry‘s iconic Pennywise performance in 1990’s It miniseries. Curry is phenomenal in the otherwise unwatchable adaptation and is personally responsible for many lost hours of sleep for 10 yr old me. Skarsgård wisely avoids emulation, though, and makes the monster very much his own. Odd little choices like the pointed mocking of the children he terrorizes and a never-ending stream of drool sets his rendition apart and is wholly memorable in its own right. If I have one complaint it’s that Pennywise is given slightly TOO much screen time as things build to the climax, lessening the overall intended impact.
Believe the buzz, though, people. This is maybe the most fun I’ve had at a movie this year. See it in a packed theater and laugh at yourself for screaming. It is the real deal.