Movie Review: IT

by Patrick Duggan

It can’t be easy to make a serious movie about an evil, superpowered clown who kills children. The 1990 mini-series rendition of It, Stephen King’s iconic novel, caved under the pressure. If not for Tim Curry’s legendary performance as the title character, I doubt the story would have made it to reboot. That makes it easier to forgive Andy Muschiette and company for their relatively benign update. The movie isn’t terrible, but a great cast and sharp visuals aren’t enough to save it from its mildness. In a subgenre that’s been burning its wick for three decades now, accessibility has lost its novelty.

Bill Skarsgaard is convincingly inhuman as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. His rabid-opossum approach churns stomachs when the writing allows it. Unfortunately, those moments are few and far between. It spends most of its 135 minutes on the everyday struggles of its ensemble child cast. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; these subplots are loyal to their source material, and the young actors guiding them are rewardingly engaging. King’s novel was more an exercise in symbolism and re ection than balls-to-the-wall terror, meditating on child-hood trauma and PTSD. The lm’s central kid-heroes, collectively known as the “Losers Gang,” have serious problems. From chronic sexual abuse to bullies that murder their victims, the psychological torture leveled on the Losers resurrects the lost savagery of the original story. At least it tries to. Tonal shifts and ill-placed spats of humor neutralize the dread. What’s left is an alright movie about a group of signi cantly disadvantaged youngsters, except all the scenes that resolve their independent battles are replaced with gruesome clown violence. Glaring holes show up towards the end, and characters that were just beginning to develop are left out to dry. It has more to offer than fine acting. Muischetti’s camerawork is drenched with style and compelling imagery, elevating terror and deepening emotional resonance. The colors are rich and textured, layering the atmosphere and visual grandeur. Enough beauty can save a movie from narrative blandness. Sadly, this is not one of those times.

It neuters its villain and washes out its menace in the finale, settling for Goonies-esque triumph. The existential foundation of the premise crumbles, leaving the audience wondering what was so threatening to begin with. After the concluding battle with Pennywise, the movie wraps up with one of the most asinine twists in recent blockbuster history. Although admirably faithful to the book, Muschietti’s screenplay needed something more. All of the effort is focused on pleasing King fans and drawing the largest audience possible, leaving little room for uninhibited artistic merit. Worst of all, it robs It of the horror and hopelessness that makes the premise so compelling.

Competently assembled and well-acted, It is a step-up from its goofy 90’s predecessor. Regardless, it’s short on scares and narratively unfinished. With a sequel in the works, there’s hope for Pennywise yet, but I have a feeling we’ve already seen the limits of Muischetti’s cinematic courage.

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