The best or at least the most memorable movie adaptations of Stephen King novels—like Carrie or The Shining—create a vivid universe unto themselves while channeling King’s fearlessness in exploring the dark side of human nature. King’s novels, with their seemingly infinite layers of detail and meandering, entertaining asides, are difficult to adapt. But whatever you do, locking into King’s tone is essential. For all his willingness to stare down the darkest horrors and put them on the page, he’s also blazingly sympathetic to human insecurities and flaws. He doesn’t just show us a bunch of scary stuff. He challenges us to confront why we find that stuff scary in the first place.
Director Andy Muschietti’s It, adapted from King’s disquieting 1986 epic of the same name, doesn’t cut very deep and isn’t very scary. At its best, it’s a sometimes-entertaining evocation of the way kids think and talk within their little cliques, and of the way they protect one another with fierce loyalty. Rob Reiner’s 1986 Stand By Me is the obvious comparison point. It’s the end of the 1988 school year in the small Maine town of Derry, and a bunch of the nerdier, less-popular kids are looking forward to a summer of being picked on by the town bullies. There’s asthmatic mother’s boy Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer), gangly Jewish kid Stanley Uris (Wyatt Olef), whose religion puts him in the minority in small-town Maine, and wiseguy comedian Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard). Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) is one of the quieter, more thoughtful members of the gang; he has a stutter he can’t control, and he’s still reeling from a recent family tragedy. His six-year-old brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), disappeared earlier in the year—the event is dramatized with chilling precision in the movie’s opening sequence.
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