Filmmakers have been having a go at Stephen King's horror honor roll stories since half the people in the audience were in diapers, and the newest rendition has echoes of blood-soaked Carrie (both the 1976 and 2013 versions) and kid bonding that recalls Stand by Me (1986).

What it doesn't do is bring up the 1990 version of itself. The new It for the big screen is not It made for TV. And it's not a straight line from the book either.

Among King's best works are those that hold central a group of children, and the young actors who take on these roles in Mama director Andy Muschietti's new effort are a convincing, cohesive bunch. Jaeden Lieberher leads the pack as Bill Denbrough, whose brother Georgie famously dies in the unchanged classic opening scene involving a paper boat and a yellow slicker. After the disappearance of dozens of children and after the end of school, the story joins "the losers' club" on their misadventure of summer. Punchy dialog like "yo-mama" one-liners from the group of boys meets the obvious adolescent fun of the only girl in the gang; Sophia Lillis (A Midsummer Night's Dream) has amazing eyes as Beverly Marsh. Few adults even utter substantial lines in the telling, and most of them are bruised and shadowy characters. They can't see even see the clown monster, Pennywise (a justifiably terrifying and CGI-enhanced Bill Skarsgård).

The club discovers a pattern—that Pennywise feeds on fear and returns every 27 years to feast on children in the town. What a great setup for another movie, right? And, if they follow the latest scheme of turning one book into three movies a la The Hobbit, maybe even a third. This script takes enough liberties with the original work that it's both annoying and intriguing to see what's next, but it feels like planned obsolescence. Still, we'll be there on opening night again to see where it goes all the same.


+ Modern take on a classic, scary AF story
- Only tackles a fraction of the tale


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Directed by Muschietti
With Lieberher, Lillis and Skarsgård
Violet Crown, Regal,
135 min.