My wife is deathly afraid of clowns. She hates them. She can’t even watch Eric Stonestreet do Fizbo the clown on “Modern Family.” So it’s a good bet that she and tens of thousands of other people who have what’s known as coulrophobia won’t be heading out this weekend to see the new big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s novel “It” about a creepy killer clown named Pennywise.
The story in this adaptation starts in the 1980s in Derry, Maine when a 6-year-old boy named Georgie goes missing and is assumed dead. The opening scene with Pennywise luring Georgie into the sewer where he lives sticks to King’s opening chapter in his book. It will make you squirm even if you aren’t afraid of clowns.
A few months after his disappearance, Georgie’s brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher–who was outstanding in 2015’s “St. Vincent”) is wracked with guilt because he’s the one who sent Georgie out in the rain alone on that fateful day. Bill refuses to believe his little brother is dead and he signs up a ragtag group of teenage friends in a self-named group called “The Losers Club” in an effort to solve the mystery.
This is a movie that feels a lot like “Stand by Me” meets the Netflix series “Stranger Things” in a variety of ways. One of the kids is played by Finn Wolfhard who plays Mike Wheeler in “Stranger Things” and with the 80s setting, clothing (tube socks!) and music, it all feels very nostalgic. The boys of “the Losers Club” are all vying for the attention of the only girl in the gang, Beverly, played by a newcomer named Sophia Lillis, who stands out as one of the best characters in the movie. The King novel goes between two different time periods – it starts in the 50’s and concludes in 1989.
The movie changes course, but it’s set up for a chapter two sequel when these kids are adults, in what I’m guessing with be 2019. I kept looking at Lillis and thinking Emma Stone would make a great adult version of Beverly! I really liked the dorky fat kid named Ben played by Jeremy Ray Taylor. If producers are taking note I’m thinking Jonah Hill for the sequel. My guess is the budget isn’t going to lock down any A-lister’s, but it’s fun to speculate.
Horror is not my favorite genre, mainly because it’s not executed very well and is typically hokey and not scary. “It” rises above potential silliness and director Andy Muschietti does a pretty decent job of keeping the tone suspenseful and the scary clown scenes pretty jarring. You’ll squirm in your seats a fair amount.
But for me, I’d like to go back to “Stranger Things”. The themes are similar, the characters more interesting, and there’s a ton more fun factor. It might not be fair to compare the two but I’d vote for the 8 episodes of the Netflix drama before the 2:15 run time of “It”.
I liked IT, didn’t love IT, so I’m giving “It” a solid B.