One week has already passed since I saw the new movie-version of Stephen King’s horror novel ”It”. I should have written this review days ago, but I haven’t been able to, as I don’t know what to write! It’s not that this Andy Muschietti directed version of “It” is a bad movie. It isn’t. But if you have seen the 1990 “It” miniseries, it’s not a good movie, either.
Why, you ask? Compared to the 1990 miniseries, the movie is clearly superior when it comes to special effects and in my opinion the young cast is better too, especially Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh, Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben Hanscom, and Chosen Jacobs as Mike Hanlon, not to forget Finn Wolfhard, who is brilliant as Richie Tozier. Together with Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie Kaspbrak, Wyatt Oleff as Stanley Uris, and Jaeden Lieberher as Bill Denbrough they make up the Losers’ Club that sets out to investigate what happened to Bill’s younger brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) who has disappeared after meeting the dancing clown Pennywise in their hometown of Derry, Maine.
And now we’re at the core of the problem, because the problem is It. It’s Pennywise. When Pennywise is introduced, fans of the miniseries agree: although Bill Skarsgård isn’t bad as the clown, he’s just not as good as Tim Curry was in the series. I expect nobody could be as Curry is a tough act to follow especially in this, one of his best roles.
Besides, the new Pennywise doesn’t make sense. He looks too scary for a little kid like Georgie to ever talk to him and too ridiculous for an adult movie audience to take him seriously. Where Tim Curry’s Pennywise looked like a modern-day clown, his humour, sarcasm, and amazing voice were dangerous and deadly, whereas Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise reminds me of the white rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland” – but with very few lines and a bad temper!
Because Pennywise himself isn’t scary, the movie relies heavily on cheap tricks like jump scares and loud noises to frighten its audience. Some of them are quite efficient, others are not. In any case, you shouldn’t see “It” if you need a good scare. It’s not scary, but a rather funny and touching coming-of-age movie, a bit like Rob Reiners movie-version of Stephen King’s “Stand by Me” added a young version of John Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club”. The movie-makers are aware of this, for sure, as Beverly is compared to Breakfast Club’s Molly Ringwald.
The scenes in the movie differs quite a lot from both the scenes in the miniseries and in the book, but the plot as such is the same. Changing the time from the original 1957-1958 in the book and the miniseries to 1984-1985 in the movie, is not a good idea, though. Sure, the movie makes use of a lot of funny 1980s references, but only a mature audience (like me, he-he) is likely to get them. Among people my age in the audience, they got the loudest laughs along with Finn Wolfhard’s Richard Tozier jokes.
No, the problem is, that although the story now takes place in the 1980s, the entire town of Derry still seems to be stuck in the 1950 when it comes to Afro-American characters like Mike and female characters like Beverly. 1980s-Mike has been robbed of all his 1950-intellect and is now just an orphan farm boy, who is treated as if the Civil Rights Act of 1964 never happened. In the same way, the women in the movie are all pre-feminism characters, even Beverly, who is a strong, independent character in the 1950s version, but in the 1980s she ends up as a damsel in distress, who has to be rescued by boys. Tut-tut! Luckily, the infamous sex orgy scene between Beverly and the six boys from the book has been omitted in the movie like it was in the miniseries.
Still, what ruins the movie the most is the new Pennywise as we have all come to love (and fear!) Tim Curry’s portrayal of the clown so much that he can’t be replaced. Even Pennywise’s most iconic line has absolutely no impact when it comes from Bill Skarsgård. What a shame. Let’s see if Pennywise improves in the sequel as this 2017 “It” is only the first of two movies. Until then: “Beep, beep, Richie!”
Three out of five stars: ***
P.S.: SPOILER ALERT!! How can Pennywise be next to Georgie in the flooded basement, when Pennywise is Georgie? He’s a shape-shifter, damn it! It doesn’t make sense!!!