For a re­view of “It,”

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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.

“Home Again”

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.”

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