Children of all ages have always had mixed feelings about clowns. Some are overjoyed by the fun and smiles that clowns bring, while others find them to be the most frightening characters imaginable. When you meet Pennywise from the new film "It," based on Stephen King's eponymous novel, it is easy to understand the fear that runs deep in some. Our collective fears of not only clowns, but also germs, basements and other things are at the heart of "It."
The town of Derry is a quiet place to be in 1989, but things are about to change for this sleepy Maine locale. This place has seen a high rate of people, especially children, go missing through the years. Even the imposed curfew doesn't seem to slow down the seemingly countless missing person flyers, posted one over another.
Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) is a kid who is dealing with the loss of his brother Georgie, who went missing the prior year and has never been found. It seems no one is going to do anything about it. That is, until a group of kids who are picked on in school decide to band together to stop the madness and stand up to the monster they believe is responsible.
Almost all of them have encountered the evil shapeshifting clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), and it is this devious character who must be stopped. As they eventually discover, he may have been terrorizing Derry for years. And they are ready for the challenge — or are they?
This film wouldn't work at all without a group of believable young actors leading the charge to take down Pennywise. Fortunately, the talented youthful cast, led by Lieberher, are invested in the film. It takes all of Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton and Jackson Robert Scott to make this film successful. Each become their character so that we can identify with the role. Whether it is Beverly (Lillis), the lone girl of the group who has a past that may not be what it seems, or Eddie (Grazer), the resident germaphobe, we know and believe these performances. The group of kids not so affectionately dubbed "The Losers Club" are anything but losers in their portrayals of these varied characters.
Add Skarsgård's chilling portrayal of the truly creepy Pennywise to the gifted young actors' performances, and you get the recipe for an impressive scare of a movie.
My one complaint about "It" is its length. If filmmakers would have trimmed a chunk from the third act of this 2-hour, 15-minute movie, this creepy clown adventure filled with all of our collective fears would have been a true home run.
Sorry in advance, but I'm running the other way when I see the next clown on the street. I used to like clowns, but now I'm not so sure.
Paul's Grade: B+