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It (R)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

09/14/17
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



A Maine town is tormented by a demonic clown in It, a new adaptation of the Stephen King novel.

For the record, I have no background with It, either the previous adaptation or the novel. I recognize that your feelings about the movie might be different if you have that background but I also think it’s fair to judge a movie as a standalone work. 
As we open, young Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) goes missing while floating a paper boat down the street during a rainstorm. Before he vanishes, we see him talk to a creepy, rodent-toothed clown called Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) who is hanging out in the sewer. He bites Georgie’s arm off and pulls him in.
Months later, Georgie’s older brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) is still traumatized by Georgie’s disappearance. Bill has roped his friends (high school freshman age?) into searching the sewer system for Georgie. Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Stan (Wyatt Oleff) are, like Bill, nerdy kids frequently tormented by Henry (Nicholas Hamilton), the bullyingest bully to ever bully. Eventually, Mike (Chose Jacobs), one of the few African-American kids in town; Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), who is new to town; and Beverly (Sophia Lillis), a girl with both a horrible home life and horrible outside-her-home life, join the gang. Not only do they fight off Henry, they all endure spooky encounters, usually while alone and usually involving a terrifying clown. As they piece together what is happening, they come to believe that the clown is behind not only Georgie’s disappearance but other missing kids.
I never understood the rules of “It,” as the kids call the evil personified by the clown, and the movie also seems iffy on what it wants “It” to be other than just generally a stand in for all your fears, both of the fantastical childhood kind and the growing-up real-world kind. But even as a metaphor, the monster would have been more interesting with clearer, more precise rules. For example, fear (or the lack thereof) seems to play a factor in how “It” picks his victims — but only sometimes, and then it’s suggested how fearful or brave the kids are doesn’t matter. Also, there are times when it seems like “It” is only visible to kids or uses the kids to cause other mayhem, but then that idea just hangs out there without the movie really using it to help explain what “It” wants. 
While the movie was vague with its central evil, it seems to underline and shout everything else. Every emotion or bit of character back story. There’s no shading, just a very black and white drawing and that drawing is of a scary clown, sure, but Pennywise is at least half as campy as he is scary. 
In addition to “evil clown,” It features a spooky house with an, I don’t know, pit of evil and also a scary sewer system in a town with a spooky history. There are demon-y children (the kidnapped children, who occasionally reappear in scary but not always sense-making circumstances). And there’s terribleness of the non-magical variety. There are two flavors of Very Bad Dad. And one Awful Mom. The story line about the bullies is very unsatisfactorily resolved. There is some racism and some girl-shaming and a lot of this is After-School-Special-y in its presentation but not really explained with much artfulness. There are way more dark and scary things than a movie needs or can easily stay focused on.
I could never get a bead on exactly how funny this movie was supposed to be. Some of the clearly purposeful kid humor worked; some of it did not. Some of the horror stuff was rather hilarious, I suspect intentionally, but some of the menace also veered into ridiculous territory in a way that undercut the horror. I feel like some of this may work for people with deep knowledge of the source material but for me the result of the mix of kid-adventure, kid suffering, horror and dark humor was campy absurdity (but not in a fun way) more than it was genre-blending magic. C-
Rated R for violence/horror, bloody images, and for language. Directed by Andy Muschietti with a screenplay by Chase Palmer & Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman (from the novel by Stephen King), It is two hours and 15 minutes long and distributed by Warner Bros. 
 





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