“IT” Movie Review: Pennywise does not Disappoint in this Triumphant Retelling
In today’s downfall of “mainstream cinema” (besides Marvel movies, of course) it’s a rare occasion when a highly anticipated film takes you off-guard and surprises its audience with genuine intrigue and thrills. In rolls Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of Stephen King’s iconic novel, IT. A film that was so much anticipated, you could practically feel it, as the packed audience waited patiently in their seats. I was one of them, and as someone who hates the current age of horror movies, but adores when they are actually good, I was equally scared. Luckily, not only is this incarnation of IT a great time at the movies, the scares and characters are what made this anomaly strive in the end.
This version of IT, or Chapter 1, as it’s called by the end credits, focuses on the kid’s storyline for 2 hours and 15 minutes. At first, I was skeptical, but my fears were soon put to rest after witnessing the stellar acting and chemistry between everyone in the “losers” group. The small town full of massive curses and murder every 27 years still feels just as small as it did in both the novel and made-for-TV movie. It’s safe to say that the town of Derry is a character in itself, and all of the townspeople are the idiosyncrasies in its performance. From an atmospheric and aesthetic standpoint, director Andy Muschietti nails it to a tee.
Fans of the source material will be thrilled to know that their beloved characters of “losers” are portrayed phenomenally, with an entertaining and stellar cast across the board. Jaeden Lieberher, as the well-intentioned stuttering Billy, gives another charismatic, yet sympathetic, performance, proving that he is one of the best working young actors today. He brings a level-headed balance to a large group of kid actors, each having their own unique quips about them. Finn Wolfhard as the foul mouthed Richie was also a treat, proving that Stranger Things was no fluke in the young actor’s career. Every time he was on screen, the crowd applauded with laughter.
The rest of the group do a fair job, with Sophia Lillis’ Beverly and Jeremy Ray Taylor’s Ben being the standouts. Taylor brings a level of earnestness to Ben, the type that you can relate to and sympathize with, sometimes more so than Billy himself. Lillis adds multiple layers to the character of Beverly. She’s the glue that holds the group together, and is brings some of the most emotionally powerful scenes to fruition with her magnetic performance.
But, we didn’t come to see IT for the complex characters, how the heck is Pennywise? I’ll admit, I was hesitant at first with Skarsgard’s killer clown in his first moments of screen time. I’m happy to say that there is a point during those first moments that he won me over. I won’t spoil the scene for you, but let’s just say this isn’t your 1990s made-for-TV movie version. Skarsgard is menacing, diabolical, and at times hilarious. He was in it just the right amount to make an impact, without being overused.
The tone Andy Muscietti set is both parts terrifying as it is charming. When you really boil it down, IT is a coming-of-age movie with a child eating clown in it. The scenes that are meant to scare are full of tension and the unknown, as you are never quite certain what’s going to happen next. In retrospect, though, the cast of kids all have their own growing up to do, and the friendship they posses is utterly believable, which makes most of this film work so great.
That being said, the movie is a bit too long for my taste. There is a “fake out” ending at around the 100-minute mark that felt like it would’ve been a more gutsy note to end this chapter on. Instead, we have another 30 minutes to sit through, and with that, it can become a bit repetitive. After seeing the film, I understand why they chose to go in this direction, but I just can’t help but wonder the reaction audiences would’ve had if it ended in more of a cliffhanger, if you will.
Despite the runtime, and it’s repetition, IT was an event at the movies that actually made me scared. I love the feeling of the unexpected, and the fear that goes along with that. And when a film can do that to me throughout 75% of its runtime, I’m a happy camper.
IT comes out Friday, September 8th, 2017