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IT (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 17, 2020


IT (2017)

Starring Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Bill Skarsgård, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton, Jackson Robert Scott, Jake Sim, Logan Thompson, Owen Teague, Stephen Bogaert, Stuart Hughes, Geoffrey Pounsett and Pip Dwyer.

Screenplay by Chase Palmer & Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman.

Directed by Andy Muschietti.

Distributed by New Line Cinema. 134 minutes. Rated R.

First things first. Stephen King’s IT is one of my favorite books ever – though I must admit that he painted himself into a corner and had to settle for a pretty anti-climactic ending when we see the monster’s actual form. Still, even with that slightly disappointing ending, IT was a truly chilling and masterfully plotted horror story, and the book is as responsible as anything for the irrational fear many people feel when they see a clown.

I’m also a big fan of the 1990 TV miniseries version of the book, even though on broadcast TV in the 1990s, the scares had to be significantly toned down from the book to make it past Network Standards and Practices. However, that will always be classic if for no other reason than Tim Curry’s near-perfect, deranged, yet strangely funny, nightmare-inducing performance as the evil Pennywise the Dancing Clown.

Anyone trying to take on that role will have some seriously big (floppy) shoes to fill.

Therefore, it was with excitement, but a little trepidation, that I started hearing a few years ago that Cary Fukunaga (True Detective) was going to be writing and directing a new version of IT in two films; one showing the characters as 13-year-old children fighting the evil Pennywise, and one showing them returning as 40-year-old adults. For one thing, this was a serious revision of the story structure (the novel and miniseries bounced back and forth between the past and present day).

After lots of Hollywood wheeling and dealing and a brief stall in the project – in which Fukunaga left due to some creative differences – the film was brought back to life with Andrés Muschietti (Mama) taking over the directing duties. (Fukinaga’s script was doctored, but was still used as the skeleton of the production.)

So, a few years after the word of IT returning started making the rounds, it’s finally here. And I’ve got to say, it’s everything that fans have been hoping for. IT is smart, funny, and incredibly scary.

Of course, it is impossible to totally turn the 1,100-page novel into a film, and the filmmakers wisely don’t even try. Treating IT as the first half of a longer story, some sections are faithful to the novel, other scenes are completely reimagined (though, pleasantly, they feel organic to the story). Even just basics have been changed – the time setting has changed from the 1950s to the late 1980s. And of course, the new format of past-only exposition leaves people waiting for the inevitable sequel with the kids as adults.

This is where the slight complaints about IT come up. Even at over two hours, it feels incomplete, like the first half of a longer story.

As far as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, even if Bill Skarsgård does not quite live up to Tim Curry’s performance in the role, he still has a fascinating take on the role; slightly quieter, with a bit of a lisp, but still extremely scary.

IT is not a perfect dramatization of the novel; however, it comes probably as close as possible to doing the book justice. I have a feeling the film will play even better once the second half, in which many hanging plot threads are tied, is made. Hopefully (and undoubtedly, since IT feels like it is going to be a huge hit) that will be done sooner rather than later.

Don’t leave us fans floating.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2017 All rights reserved. Posted: September 8, 2017.

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