For a review of “It,”
A whole generation was scarred for life and saddled with a clown phobia thanks to slumber party screenings of the 1990 miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s “It,” starring Tim Curry as the creepy killer clown Pennywise. In hindsight, the “It” miniseries is more goofy than terrifying, and the jacked- up, R- rated feature film version, directed by Andy Muschietti, hits movie screens just in time for a new generation to develop a healthy fear of murderous men in white face paint.
Despite its dated ’ 90s quirks, the “It” miniseries is strangely engrossing for its raw and honest depiction of adults demolishing their childhood fears. The childhood that King depicts isn’t one of innocence, but of violence, abuse, brutality and neglect. The new “It” latches onto that theme, predominantly by eschewing the adult portions, and focusing entirely on the kids’ story, which takes place during the summer of 1989.
Muschietti has cast a wonderful group of teens to play the pubescent warriors who face off against Pennywise, including Finn Wolfhard from “Stranger Things,” Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer and Wyatt Oleff. The lone girl of the group, Beverly, is played by Sophia Lillis, a plucky combination of Molly Ringwald and Mia Farrow.
Who steps into the oversize shoes of Pennywise, one of Curry’s most indelible roles? Bill Skarsgård, a young Swedish actor, one of the seven Skarsgård sons of Stellan Skarsgård. And he totally nails it. Skarsgård has Pennywise’s line delivery down pat, the combination of cajoling and creepy enhanced with large, glowing eyes boring into your soul. It’s such a great performance that you wish Muschietti had eased up on the CGI and just let Skarsgård do the talking.
That tendency is an indication of the issues at hand in “It.” The scares come fast, furious and digitally enhanced, when they could have been more effective paced out, slowly building with the surreal imagery that follows Pennywise everywhere he goes. Although the story is changed in parts, it is mostly faithful to many of the set pieces of the original miniseries, just with more numbing digital enhancement.
The most disappointing story changes surround the character of Bev, the single girl in the group of “Losers.” In “It,” the camera leers at her youthful body, presents her as a sexual object to be gawked at by young boys and grown men alike, which doesn’t sit well when she’s also a victim of implied sexual abuse by her father. It proves to be a star turn for the talented and fiery Lillis, but sadly, her character becomes a damsel in distress needing to be rescued.
Ultimately, “It” works not because of its supernatural scares ( although there are some good jumps), but because of the characters at the center of this tale. An R- rating allows for the kind of potty- mouthed humor endemic to teenage boys, and “It” is genuinely, laugh- outloud funny, often more than it’s terrifying, especially thanks to Wolfhard, who plays the loud- mouth Richie, and Grazer as germaphobe neatnik Eddie.
This is a monster that can’t be contained by any rules or logic, and that’s frustrating. Fears and phobias aren’t always tangible, but Pennywise makes it so. If only the film had slowed downa bit to give roomto the character most likely to imprint himself on the amygdala of a generation.
“It,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release, is rated R for violence/ horror, bloody images, and for language. Running time: 135 minutes.
The name “Meyers” has come to signify a very specific type of film in Hollywood — the shiny, gentle, comforting and aspirational romantic family comedies that writer/ director Nancy Meyers has perfected (“Something’s Gotta Give,” “The Holiday,” “It’s Complicated”). Her daughter, Hallie Meyers- Shyer, keeps that legacy alive with her directorial debut, “Home Again.” Call it nepotism, call it a legacy, or simply call it the family business, which always inspires a sense of trustworthiness, quality and consistency.
The Meyers aesthetic is strong in this film, with Nancy serving as a producer on this mother- daughter co- production of a very specific cinematic product. Featuring beloved actresses on the other side of 40 enshrined in sun- dappled kitchens as they fret over romantic foibles, a Meyers movie is the kind of domestic escapism that feels like being wrapped in a warm hug. And although “Home Again” clearly shares DNA with her mother’s work, the sharp screenplay, written by Meyers- Shyer, is modern and sly, universally relatable and poignant at times too.
REESEWITHERSPOON stars as Alice, the daughter of the late John Kinney, a revered ( fictional) ’ 70s film director and his actress wife, Lillian, ( Candice Bergen, who gets some of the best lines in the film). She’s recently separated from her husband, Austin, ( Michael Sheen) and returned home to her dad’s palatial pad in LA with her two daughters, trying to get steady on her feet. Before she knows it, herworld is rocked again with the arrival of three 20- something men, newly arrived dreamers looking to make it big in Hollywood. Thanks to the meddling of her mom, she decides to let them stay awhile.
Unexpectedly, the presence of Harry ( Pico Alexander), Teddy ( Nat Wolff) and George ( Jon Rudnitsky) is just what Alice needs to get her groove back. The guys, working on their first big movie deal, turn out to be fantastic babysitters, home chefs, tech support, even booty calls. How many house husbands does one wife need? Turns out three should cover it.
“Home Again” is pure fantasy, all softly- lit, perfectly styled, looking like the cover of Sunset magazine. A world where a 40- year- old single mom is pursued by no fewer than four handsome men. But within that fantasy is also a wonderfully deft demonstration of feminine autonomy in matters of sex, love and marriage. Austin represents the old way of life, where husbands claim ownership of woman and children as property and step on their choices. The three young guys are evolved enough to be respectful, practically in awe, of female independence.
But this isn’t a tale about a gaggle of young Prince Charmings sweeping a princess off her feet. It’s a story of a woman making her own life, out of the shadow of her father, her husband, or her houseguests, and doing it on her own— drawing her own boundaries and lines in the sand, whether that means drunkenly confronting her nightmare of a client ( Lake Bell), or making it clear she won’t stand for flakey behavior from her younger paramour.
This world doesn’t quite exist, but it’s an exceedingly pleasant place to escape to for a couple of hours. Thank goodness the Meyers mantle has been passed on to the next generation. Meyers- Shyer may have gotten it from her mama, but the point of viewis all hers.
“Home Again,” an Open Road Films release, is rated PG- 13 for some thematic and sexual material. Running time: 97 minutes.
Reese Witherspoon, left, stars in the new Open Road Films release “Home Again.”