“Bill,” says Beverly (Sophia Lillis), “you can’t go in there!” “For me, walking into this house,” Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) says, “is as easy as walking into my own. We have to stick together. We’ll win, I promise you.” Bill, Beverly and their high-school friends investigate the strange disappearance of children from their home town, Bill’s young brother Georgie being the most recent victim. That’s the setup for this graphic horror film.
Will the seven friends find Pennywise, grisly monster clown they suspect is the abductor? Can they confront the serious coming-of-age problems each faces? Is two hours and 15 minutes too long for this well-made Stephen King adaptation? I think so.
Seven talented young actors lead the large cast. Jaeden Lieberher is Bill, grieving for Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), beloved brother, abducted eight months previously. Bill is leader of — as its members call it — Losers Club — all of them rejected and bullied at school. Jeremy Ray Taylor is bookish Ben, whose library research turns out to be crucial for their investigation. Sophia Lillis plays conflicted Beverly, whose father (Stephen Bogaert) is thoroughly heinous. Finn Wolfhard is Richie, who hides insecurities with non-stop foul language, and Mike Hanlon plays Chosen Jacobs, whose authoritarian foster father is always angry. Jack Dylan Grazer and Wyatt Oleff are Eddie and Stan, who also have parental issues — Eddie’s mother is overprotective and Stan’s parents demand too much.
Others in the cast include Bill Skarsgard who is excellent as the shape-shifting monster most frequently appearing as Pennywise, homicidal circus clown. Nicholas Hamilton is Henry Bowers, vicious leader of the Derry High School bullies who, in turn, is bullied by his police-officer father, played by Stuart Hughes.
“It” is old-fashioned Hollywood horror, directed by Andy Muschietti, from Chase Palmer and Cary Fukunaga’s script, based on Stephen King’s novel. “It” tells two, interwoven stories — coming-of-age and sinister child-abducting clown or, as King himself says, “This is ‘Stand by Me’ with monsters.” Better of the two is coming-of-age because we care about the seven kids. The scary clown, on the other hand, is traditional monster fare — often on-screen, close-up, leaving little to our imagination and, in fact, becoming more than a bit boring as he appears over and over in this too-long tale.
“It” is rated R for pervasive violence/horror/bloody images and language, so young cast members couldn’t buy a ticket to see their film. “It” runs 135 minutes, 45 minutes too long. And “It” is definitely not a family-friendly film.
In the sewers of Derry, Maine,
Pennywise plays “Its” grisly game;
Kids growing up, the better plot;
Clown is scary, but sometimes not.