Director: Andy Muschietti
Cast: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa
Have I Seen it Before: New release, opening weekend. And yet… It’s all looking a bit familiar.
Did I Like It: I’m sad to report that my ultimate answer will be: Only sort of.
And I’m left wondering why that is. IT - Chapter One (2017) worked so thoroughly, I’m wondering if King’s original story inherently runs out gas if left to its natural conclusion. The original television miniseries adaptation of IT (1990) may have been one of the cheaper Canadian productions ever committed to films, but Tim Curry’s original performance as Pennywise the clown inspired a generation of coulrophobia, but if we as children all watched the two-night event to the end, we may have been freed of our anxiety when we realized the monster is nothing more than a poorly animated spider.
And so, we’re left here at the end of this film with a… poorly animated spider.
The new cast only kind of works, and their stories are just a tad too disjointed to make them believable as the driving force for this movie. The film around them never gels together as the ensemble piece it should be. Their current situations are zipped through with as much speed as possible, which continues to limit their ability to be fully-formed people. It also adds a layer of—Beverly’s (Chastain) own situation not withstanding—skepticism about marriage that one would normally find in a Woody Allen movie.
Even the children, who were largely a revelation in the film, are a distracting presence in this film, for the most part. The CGI Eddie Kaspbrak (does Jack Dylan Grazer even appear in this film?) easily ranks as one of the more unsettling creatures in the film, which only somewhat damns the creature design through the rest of the film.
There are parts of the film that work. The opening scene depicting the gruesome death of Adrian Mellon (Xavier Dolan) is exactly the nauseating form of banal evil that Derry should be known for. It’s discomforting in every measurable way, but it’s a shame that the creeping evil at the very heart of the town is never really addressed beyond this opening scene.
Each scene with Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) is a symphony of horror that leaves this reviewer clenching in all of the right places, but they are few and far between. The film should really get a failing grade for presenting itself as the killer clown movies to end all killer clown movies only occasionally features its killer clown. The projector scene in Chapter One has no peak-terror equivalent in this entry, and only makes the film approach levels of forgettability that rivals the characters jumbled childhood memories.
Much praise has been given to Bill Hader for his performance as the adult Richie Tozier. I for one think that Isaiah Mustafa as the adult Mike Hanlon brought a vigilant intelligence to the role that was sorely missing from the script of Chapter One. They both deserve every amount of that approval, and I don’t even have a counterpoint to negate that praise. So, in an effort to get the end of this review to be on a happy, positive note (one of the more drilled-to-death jokes in the movie), I think Mustafa should play Batman now.