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The new version of Stephen King’s IT is deserving of a bit of praise. With it being a theatrical release, rather than TV miniseries, it is quite creepier. Also, the young actors are pushed beyond what the original kids were in terms of giving their character’s heart. Yet, there is the problem it disappoints as a horror movie but makes for a good coming of age dramedy.
After the death of his little brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) remains the only one who has faith that he is just missing. He isn’t dead. Something his friends try to humor but it gets difficult after a while. Especially after they all have their introductions to Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård).
With meeting IT, Bill’s friends find themselves joining him in the hunt for this monster. Making a group which came together either for protection or to battle loneliness, into much more than the losers everyone thinks they are. For between facing their fears and sometimes ridding themselves of them violently, the would be losers prove they are perhaps the bravest people in Derry, Maine.
I wanna run toward something, not away.
— IT (2017)
Ain’t nothing like a little fear to make a paper man crumble.
— IT (2017)
This Adaptation Takes Advantage of Being on The Big Screen (And R)
Perhaps the first thing that becomes abundantly clear is that this group of kids, they are not some PG “Gosh Darn” saying kind of group. Between talking about having sex with each other’s moms, dick sizes, and cursing galore, we are given real deal teenagers. Of which, Richie (Finn Wolfhard) and Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) will be the main ones whose language will tickle you throughout the movie. Richie through him being a bit of a comedian (naturally), and his commentary causing constant giggles. As for Eddie, with his germophobia, among other things, he’ll constantly make you roll your eyes, in a good way.
With A Little More Feeling
Another thing quite notable with this adaptation is that the child actors they got, they know how to do more than crack jokes or seem like awkward teens. Each one’s backstory is given some real oomph so that the source of their fears actually has weight. Take Mike (Chosen Jacobs) for example. His parents in the movie died in a fire and while, at first, them being dead leads to some real eye roll inducing teen angst, when he speaks of it with the Losers you can see the pain that caused. Especially as he expresses what sounds like guilt over it.
The same can be said when it comes to Henry (Nicholas Hamilton) and Beverly (Sophia Lillis). Their issues with their dads are something which you can strangely connect with, even if you have a good relationship with your own. For Henry, as much as he abuses everyone, even cuts into Ben’s (Jeremy Ray Taylor) stomach with a knife, seeing him with his dad, sniveling, kind of made you feel bad for him. Then with Beverly, well… it isn’t explicitly said or shown what he may do or has done, to her, but between anger and your skin crawling, the point comes across.
Sometimes, Everyone Tries Too Hard
Some kids are better at conveying their emotions than others. Bill usually holds it down, but every now and then he gets a corny line which makes you roll your eyes. Skarsgård does his best to seem scary, but even for those like me who shy away from horror movies, films in the thriller genre as well, some scenes you can tell should have been scary, just don’t pop.
On The Fence
Between Skarsgård’s voice damn near sounding, at times, he is auditioning to do the voice for the next live action Scooby Doo movie, to him being more creepy than scary, he just didn’t really do it for me. Yet, even though his jump scares were weak, I got startled about 4 times, I will say he did make Pennywise his own. He stripped away Tim Curry’s comedic take on it and tried to bring about the more sinister side. Though, unfortunately, Pennywise was also allowed to look more pathetic as well. Especially as the kids started to not become afraid of him. So while he was presented as more creepy, unfortunately, the longer you see him, the more used to his antics you get. Sort of like the kids.
The Romantic Subplot
There is a love triangle in the movie between Bill, Beverly, and Ben. In it, Ben is really pulling out all the moves between his poem, being the one to awaken Beverly from whatever spell Pennywise puts her under and more. Yet, he is constantly curved. Something which is a bit heartbreaking to watch but does help setup what may happen in the sequel.
But what has this topic on the fence is because it ultimately doesn’t do much for the movie. It is sweet, authentic, and the setup is needed for the sequel, but ultimately everything that happens seems more for the sequel than this movie. Which sucks since the love triangle is kind of compelling to the point you do wanna see it get fully resolved.
Overall: Mixed (Home Viewing)
I adore what the young actors did with their characters. They vastly improved them in comparison to what was done in the mini-series and truly left a mark. The kind I expect for Lieberher, Lillis, Wolfhard, Taylor, and Grazer, will certainly lead to bigger and better things. However, Skarsgård, as expected, falls into the trap of most modern villains. That is, the fear you are supposed to have of him being far too forced and while he gets point for his creepiness, after a certain point, be it because we see him too much or his tricks get old fast, you build up a tolerance.
Hence the Mixed label. Mainly because the young actors overshadow the star attraction despite Pennywise being the selling point. For between him overstaying his welcome, to the kids just having such rich backstories and comedic scenes, you almost forget this is a horror movie with one of the genre’s iconic monsters. For you serious, at times, get the vibe this is just a drama which features the kids all dealing with their trauma in their own unique way.