(director: Andy Muschietti; screenwriters: Chase Palmer/Cary Fukunaga/Gary Dauberman/based on a novel by Stephen King; cinematographer: Chung-hoon Chung; editor: Jason Ballantine; music: Benjamin Wallfisch ; cast: Bill Skarsgård(Pennywise), Jaeden Lieberher(Bill Denbrough), Finn Wolfhard (Richie Tozier), Jeremy Ray Taylor(Ben Hanscom), Sophia Lillis (Beverly Marsh), Stephen Bogaerth (Mr. March), Stuart Hughes (Officer Bowers), Chosen Jacobs (Mike Hanlon), Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie Kasprak), Mollie Jane Atkinson (Sonia Kasprak), Wyatt Oleff (Stanley Uris), Ari Cohen (Rabbi Uris), Nicholas Hamilton (Henry Bowers), Jake Sim (Belch Huggins), Logan Thompson (Victor Criss), Jackson Robert Scott (Georgie Denbrough); Runtime: 135; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Roy Lee/Barbara Muschietti/David Katzenberg/Dan Lin/Seth Grahame Smith; New Line Cinema; 2017)
Another Stephen King novel made into a film that looks good but fails to deliver the chills his readers must have felt.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Another Stephen King novel made into a film that looks good but fails to deliver the chills his readers must have felt. This one is from the 1986 novel that numbers 1,100 pages, that in the book was set in the 1950s but in the film is updated to the 1980s.

It’s a coming-of-age horror film about how fear can make our life a nightmare. Director Andy Muschietti (“Mama”) serves up the slick supernatural scares with loud sounds and terrifying hallucinatory images, meant to give us the chills. The result is this creepy horror film is one whose cliched scares get your attention but nevertheless seem toothless.

The screenplay is crafted by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman, and it’s told only from the POV of the self-loathing children.It’s a summertime tale that’s set in 1989, just as school closes for the vacation. Children have a history of disappearing in the town of Derry, Maine, because of the evil shapeshifting nimble clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), who shows up every 27 years since the founding of the town to scare the local kids to death by transforming himself into their worst fears. We learn the town ignores that so many children have vanished over the years, and just goes on trying to seem like a normal serene small town. The supernatural tale begins sharply with a murder.

The cute Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), the younger brother of the stuttering Billy (Jaeden Lieberher), disappears into a sewer drain after floating the paper boat his brother just gave him down a flooded street, during a rain storm, as he mysteriously encounters the sewer-dwelling clown Pennywise and is pulled into the sewer after the clown pretends to return his boat.A few months after the incident, during the summer break, the flustered Billy talks his nerdy misfit friends into helping him look for Georgie. They are an all-boys collection of self-described losers– the non-stop talkative, Coke-bottle-spectacled Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard); the sweet-natured but friendless and obese new kid on the block Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor); the babied by mom hypochondriac Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer); the black outsider Mike (Jack Dylan Grazer) and the rabbi’s fearful Bar Mitzvah lesson boy Stanley (Wyatt Oleff). They are joined by an inwardly pained but outwardly confident girl, Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis). The 13-year-olds are left to their own means to fight off the school bullies (who are led by the revolting Henry Bowers-Nicholas Hamilton-and his oafish gang). The kids must also deal with their misfit parents (who range from abusive to overbearing, to negligent) and, of course, the glowering madman clown they discover as real.

The overlong nightmare tale (even if admittedly trimmed down) drags on and on, and only seems to be effective in fits and starts. It incompletely ends as Chapter One and promises it will show us in Chapter Two how the kids will deal with the clown as grownups. That means a sequel is in the works to tell us how things end.