Review: It – Barely floats

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ItIf a story about a group of misfit kids banding together to fight an unspeakable evil sounds like you’ve been there and done it before, well, you probably have. It’s a well-worn formula that has been used for decades, with everything from Scooby-Doo cartoons to the popular Netflix series, Stranger Things.

In 1986, author Stephen King took that tried and true concept to new heights with his epic horror tome, It, which was turned into a television miniseries in 1990. The embodiment of evil from King’s tale, Pennywise the clown, is a well-established horror icon; so what could a new adaptation of the story possibly bring to the table? As It turns out, not much.

Before I dive into this specific film, let me state that I’m a longtime Stephen King fan, going back to what I consider his heyday in the late seventies and early eighties. I’ve not read everything he’s written, but what I haven’t is on my “to read” stack of books.

That said, King’s very entertaining books often suffer in translation to film, at least the supernatural themed ones, in that there is no way the big screen can compete with the author’s masterful manipulation of your mind’s eye. Most of his horror book-to-film adaptations come across as just plain goofy – and such is the case with this new version of It, which already suffers, at this point in time, from being completely unoriginal.

In case you’ve been hiding at the bottom of a well for the past three decades, let me catch you up on the story:

In King’s favorite small town, Derry, Maine, a group of stereotypical kids – including the stutterer (Jaeden Lieberher); the fat kid (Jeremy Ray Taylor); the cute, tomboy girl (Sophia Lillis); the smart-alecky kid with big glasses (Finn Wolfhard, who you’ll recognize from Stranger Things); the black kid (Chosen Jacobs); the sickly kid (Jack Dylan Grazer) and the Jewish kid (Wyatt Oleff) – are the only ones who can see and confront the ultimate, malevolent evil, which most often takes the shape of Pennywise the dancing, killer clown (Bill Skarsgard).

ItIn It’s town of Derry, the adults are all dumb, corrupt, evil, or have all three traits; and, apparently, their grade school aged offspring are in classes with high-schoolers who drive sports cars and maniacally pick on all the younger kids. It’s best if you don’t think about it too much.

Is the new Pennywise creepy? Sure, but we’ve seen these same so-called scares in dozens of movies and the only way you’re not going to be completely numb to most of it is if you haven’t seen a horror film in the past thirty years. In 2017, this is pretty standard stuff – not to mention that it has literally been done before.

After you get past the eye-rolling corniness of the initial set-up and the “Losers” gang confronts Pennywise for the first time, the movie does become a bit more tolerable; but it still has many moments where you are likely to be scratching your head wondering what the heck are these people thinking – including director Andy Muschietti (Mama – 2013) and his team of screenwriters.

Simply said, Netflix’s Stranger Things is an homage to Stephen King’s It, but the television series’ creators, the Duffer Brothers, easily out “It” this new It at every turn, making the new, mediocre film both irrelevant and completely unnecessary. Grade: 4.5/10

Photos Copyright © 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.