Quick Hit: Finally succeeding with the Loser's Club, the movie takes what made the book great and furthers it.
First, let me state this - for those that go into IT looking only for a horror movie that will torture them at night, you may leave disappointed. But for those that are looking for more than just a creepy clown, this recent iteration of IT will survive in the legions of King fans the world over - mainly for being a faithful adaptation to the source material when it matters.
Don't misunderstand here - there are moments where the images on screen will crawl your skin and stand up your hair. But the beauty of director Andy Muschietti's recent adaptation is that it realizes what makes Stephen King the author that he is - a man who knows how to write a character, develop him, and allow character relationships to bud and form. Muschietti (and writers Chase Palmer and Cary Fukunaga) realize that and instead focus most of the story on The Loser's Club - a collection of bullied kids that all have their own character flaws: a stutter, a hypochondriac, a fat kid, etc. This is exceptional because IT is about so much more than a killer clown in the sewers; it's about growing up and learning to accept yourself and others.
The decision was made in the process to reboot the movie from the television miniseries to split the adult story from the kid's story (the book alternates the two). This allows each of the kids adequate screen time without having to share it with the adults. And each and every child actor does terrific with the role they are given. Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special) is terrific as Stuttering Bill, the de facto leader of the group, but adequate screen time is given to each of the characters to grow. Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard shines as Richie Tozier, gleefully spitting joke after joke filled with sailor-like language, and Jack Dylan Grazer pulls off Eddie Kaspbrak like few could. But it's the understated scenes with Sophia Lillis that truly bring the world of Derry to life, and illustrate exactly what the town is. From the terrifying implications of the scenes with her father, to the gleefully way she manipulates the town pharmacist, Lillis seems to understand that Beverly is a character that stands alone within the film, and she runs with it. That makes the romance developing between her and Bill that much more believable, and the moments with Ben that much more touching.
The setting of Derry is perfect, and the set pieces are really good. The house on Neibolt street is chilling and scary, and the different shots of the Barrens (the biggest excision from the book) are beautiful and help build the tension nicely. The decision to move the movie from the 50s to the 80s comes through best here, with New Kids on the Block posters and Nightmare on Elm Street showing on local movie screen. This also helps some of the CGI pop within the setting a bit more, because some of the monsters Pennywise creates are truly terrifying. In particular for me, the Neibolt street leper gave me some moments of sheer, unadulterated terror. Bill Skaarsgard plays Pennywise with a rare menace and glee befitting the character, and the effects team is due some real credit for making his grin stretch even farther than it could.
IT falls short of perfection, despite being an extremely good movie. I could have done with a few less shots of Pennywise coming toward the camera, as it felt repititive after a while. Along with this, the score, while old school, often felt repetitive as well in the way you could almost tell exactly when the film would want you to start getting scared. These are small critiques though.
Overall, I think this stands among some of the finest of King adaptations. Some people will say it is a bit too much like Stranger Things, or that it is striving too much to be like Stand By Me. What people forget however is that without IT (the novel), there is no Stranger Things, and the author surely took his own short "The Body" and furthered it into the feelings in IT. I'm giving the new film a solid "A-". I'll end on this haunting image.
For more on this film, check out www.imdb.com/title/tt1396484/IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"