“It” is very long for a horror movie (135 minutes), yet covers only half of the Stephen King novel it’s based on, yet is full of half-mentioned details that seem to have been crammed in hurriedly. I guess it’s fitting that a nostalgic tale set in a childhood summertime would seem both eternal and not long enough, and feature a carnivorous sewer clown. (Your childhood summers may have been different from mine.)
Scary? Yes, when it wants to be, and often bloody and murderous, though not as much as the novel prescribes or the R rating would have allowed. Directed by Andy Muschietti (“Mama”) from a screenplay credited to Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga (“Beasts of No Nation”), and Gary Dauberman (“Annabelle”), this adaptation, rather than inspiring deep-seated terror, tends to be frightening in the carnival funhouse sort of way. But it’s also about childhood friendship and coming of age in a manner that makes it a slightly less gross companion piece to “Stand by Me.”
The first part of King’s 1986 novel was set in the summer of 1958. That’s been updated to 1989 (nostalgia stops being lucrative if you go TOO far back), which now seems about as quaint as the ’50s did then, especially in the small Maine town of Derry. Here we meet a group of too many 13-year-olds, more than the film needs or has the wherewithal to develop, personalitywise.
Their leader is Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), a sensitive boy with a stutter whose little brother went missing last fall, which happens to a lot of Derry children on account of the carnivorous sewer clown (though nobody knows that’s the reason; they just think, “Huh, lots of kids disappear here, weird”). Then there’s Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), a motormouth who we eventually realize is supposed to be a germaphobic hypochondriac; Richie (Finn Wolfhard), another motormouth but with eyeglasses who we eventually get is “the smart-aleck”; and Stanley (Wyatt Oleff), the Jewish one.
But wait, there’s more! There is also a fat kid, Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), who has a crush on outcast Beverly (Sophia Lillis), whose father is a pervert. And there’s also a black kid, Mike (Chosen Jacobs), who’s homeschooled and has to kill sheep with a bolt-gun as part of his stepfather’s business. All seven children are self-described “losers,” which is doubly true when you consider that at least two of them (Mike and either Richie or Eddie) are extraneous to the movie’s plot. On the other hand, the kids have a potty-mouthed rapport that rings hilariously true from what I recall of being a 13-year-old boy. They may be interchangeable or unnecessary, but they’re likable, normal kids.
[Continue reading at Crooked Marquee.]
B- (2 hrs., 15 min.; )