It ★★

2017 movie viewings, #143. Yes, yes, I agree that the production values are really high in Andy Muschietti's new adaptation of Stephen King's It, currently in theaters; but as I kept thinking over and over while watching it tonight, as part of my new MoviePass membership, all the money in the world still isn't going to make this a great film, not when it's inherently hobbled by being based on one of the worser books by a writer who is barely above mediocre even at his absolute best. And Lord, this 1986 novel is far from Stephen King's best, a deliberately over-inflated "saga" from a point in his career when he desperately needed one (by the mid-'80s King was becoming known for a series of fluffy, Hollywood-friendly short thrillers, and felt the need to prove to everyone that he still had another serious epic like The Stand in him), in which he assembles a series of cardboard-thin "underdog of the week" stereotypes (the black kid! The Jewish kid! The stutterer! The asthmatic! The molested girl! The fat nerd! The skinny nerd! And so forth!), then saddles them with an unbearable amount of hackneyed dialogue in the service of what's essentially a thousand pages of jump-scares and not much else. (I get it, Pennywise is scary, I fucking get it already.) Although the film does an admirable job at tackling all that, "all that" turns out to not really be worth the time and money to begin with, especially when it's eventually revealed that this unstoppable force of supernatural evil at the center of the tale can be easily defeated by a group of 13-year-olds simply because they're "true friends" with each other, yet another unfortunate example of King's infamous habit of letting treacly, syrupy sentimentality get in the way of what is otherwise a natural talent for snappy narratives.

Also: Has there ever been a lazier way in the history of time to increase conflict in a screenplay than by introducing a gang of high-school bullies? Also also: If you give them clown makeup and demonic teeth while lighting them from underneath and suddenly blasting unexpected ear-piercing music (ugh, all that sudden unexpected ear-piercing music), pretty much any person on the planet will appear terrifying, making Bill Skarsgård's particular turn at it not nearly as impressive as all the accolades he's currently receiving. Oh, and also also also: Dear Hollywood, can we please cool it soon on all the lazy ripoffs of '80s Spielberg, designed to give you instant nostalgic credit by piggybacking on the disposable pop-culture of an infinitely better director than you? Sincerely, Jason Pettus. And also also also also: If you are are going to lazily rip off '80s pop-culture, please at least get your references right: no 1989 teen in his right mind, for example, would've been caught dead wearing a "calculator wristwatch" from 1981; similarly, there wasn't a single child in the entire history of the '80s who spent his spare time constructing paper boats and coating them with liquid wax for the amusement of a younger brother (one of several details left over from the book's original flashback sequences in the 1950s, which make sense for that time period but no sense when updated to the '80s; see also the bullies' hatred of the black kid because "they don't want colored people living in their town"); and less we say about the drugstore full of items with 2017 logos, the better.

Lazy, lazy, lazy, expensive, lazy -- that's It in a five-word nutshell, a movie that I couldn't pass up seeing for free (my curiosity was just too great), but that had me rolling my eyes for two hours and fifteen minutes with all the intensity of a 15-year-old boy at a drunk-driving school assembly. Buyer beware.

P.S. You cut away from XTC's "Dear God" right when the song gets good, perhaps this movie's greatest crime of all.

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