There are few films I hold more dear to my heart than the 1990 version of Stephen King’s It. A two-part miniseries featuring a young Seth Green, a bearded John Ritter, and the incomparable Tim Curry delivering a pitch perfect rendition of everything we were ever afraid of. The made-for-TV project certainly isn’t without its warts, but overall, now almost three decades after airing on ABC, it still gives me goose bumps. So with all of this in mind, I’ve been both very excited, and a little apprehensive about the remake, a project that’s been in the works for a few years now. Could it live up to the low-budget TV movie? Could they find someone to fill Tim Curry’s sizeable shoes? Would the R-rating enhance or detract from what I loved about the original? Well, the answer to all of those questions and more is – kind of?
If you’ve never seen the Tim Curry version of It, then you should be able to watch this one without any weight of expectations for what is going to happen. If you have seen the ’90s version, you’re going to notice a lot of changes as this is meant to be more of an adaptation of the 1986 novel source material, rather than a remake of the mini-series. That said, it’s not easy to always separate the two things, and some comparative looks are unavoidable. Anyhow, let’s talk about Andy Muschietti’s It.
This film, which covers the first half of the novel, is updated to take place in 1989, so for those of us in our thirties, there will be some nostalgia at play here, and I know personally, the decor and fashions felt genuine and familiar to me, and produced a strong representation of the time period. What really sold the film though, were the actors. Muschietti and his team did a tremendous job casting the Loser’s Club (Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Wyatt Oleff), and of the seven, it was Stranger Things‘ Finn Wolfhard as Richie Tozer (a role originally played by Seth Green) who stole near every scene he was in, though Sophia Lillis’ portrayal of Beverly Marsh was quite memorable as well. The kids carried the movie more so here than in 1990, and we saw very little direct involvement from the adults in the town of Derry. This is due mainly to a powerfully willful ignorance that plays a big part in every version of the story.
The only adult we really see get any significant screen time is Pennywise himself – Bill Skarsgård. And while he gave his own unique and interesting spin to the clown, too much of his performance was reliant on CGI and makeup for him to topple Curry as the definitive version of the character. Not trying to knock Skarsgård, whom I enjoyed, but Curry was able to do more with less. And while Curry carried every scene he was in, it really is the kids this time around who actually outshine the clown. While Tim Curry felt like an actual player in the story, here in 2017, Pennywise feels less like a character, and more like a set piece. Some obstacle that spends far less time connecting with the cast or the audience, and is instead used as a prop just to scare.
The run time, which surprised some people, checking in at around two hours and fifteen minutes, didn’t feel nearly as long as it was. The pacing was brisk and managed to maximize the short amount of time needed to set up each of our seven heroes. And while Bill and Bev get a little more developed than the other five, they all manage to shine through when needed. While no doubt a horror movie through and through, this new version of It seems to have a little bit of Spielberg magic along with it. The wonder and bravery displayed by the kids harken back to The Goonies at points, and the bond they share feels more organic this time around.
Overall, the classic themes are all present – teamwork, friendship, young love – and many of the external, non-evil-clown like barriers still exist. Henry Bowers and Belch are as mean as ever, Mr. Marsh is still a monster, and Eddie’s mother is even less tolerable than before. But the increased budget of $35 million (which it will easily earn back this weekend), over the $12 million they spent in 1990 (which would be equal to around $23 million now) may have inspired them to use a bit more CG, when they could have more effectively leaned on practical effects and gotten a scarier result. The movie is good, and it was a great way to end the summer and usher in the
Halloween Football Fall season.
It is playing pretty much everywhere as of today, so go check it out and let us know what you think.
GEEK Grade: B+
Images: ABC, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros.