Film review website Rotten Tomatoes usually gets it right. But this time, the entertainment aggregator got “It” wrong.
Receiving a “Certified Fresh” rating from the website requires a percentage score of 75 percent or better from film critics and audience-goers. The Stephen King novel turned miniseries turned remake has earned itself an 85 percent going into this weekend.
What’s most surprising is that when you only score audience reviews, the film receives an 87 percent score from more than 40,000 reviewers while film critics employed by the site give it an average score of 72 precent.
The critics may be just as generous as fans of the movie.
I was invited by some friends to see the film at Marcus Point Cinema on the west side of Madison. My friend that was beyond eager to catch what he anticipated to be a “real” horror flick ended up passing out in the back row. This reaction wasn’t caused by fear, but boredom.
The film follows a group of kids trying to find the younger brother of the main protagonist, Bill, who went missing. Without giving too much away, the film tells the story of the kids discovering a sewer dwelling killer clown named Pennywise that devours children.
As it happens, I can’t relate to the crowd that has recently discovered in the past few years that they are frightened by clowns. This segment of our population seems to be growing and perhaps accounts for so many people throwing their money at a questionable Warner Bros. production.
I’ll give my compliments first. The casting by director Andy Muschietti exceeded my expectations. Swedish actor Bill Skarsgård might surpass Tim Curry, the original Pennywise, when it comes to eating children as the killer clown in “It.”
So often do we see scary movies where prepubescent children are portrayed as clueless and dimwitted. They wander alone in the forest at night while a killer is on the loose or they open the door they know doesn’t have anything good on the other side. But not here.
In this film, characters Bill, Richie and Ben are brought to life as intelligent, curious children through young, talented actors. Richie is played by Finn Wolfhard, who plays Mike in the critically acclaimed Netflix series “Stranger Things.” Wolfhard steals the show early and becomes one of my favorite characters this year through a barrage of one-liners providing a steady stream of comic relief.
Yet the film isn’t all smiles and white face paint.
In this production, Pennywise rarely speaks. Instead, the production emphasizes computer generated imagery. This CGI resulted in the expanding of Pennywise’s face to attempt to eat the fear out of children. Never do we get treated to seeing the clown claim a victim, but it’s implied. What a thrill.
The lone female protagonist, the tomboy Bev played by Sophia Lillis, becomes objectified almost the moment you first see her on screen. Other characters harass Bev by spreading rumors that she is promiscuous, after the movie hints that she was assaulted by her father. In many ways, Bev is written as another stereotypical “damsel in distress” female character, eventually in need of rescue from the male lead.
The film never shows law enforcement attempting to find missing children in Derry, Maine. The theme is that once they’re gone, it’s over. This just isn’t realistic and left me frustrated. Most exasperating, the movie just isn’t scary. Unless you truly have a fear of clowns, there’s nothing about “It” that chills your soul.
I’ll give this $200 million-plus, Goonies-esque attempt five Swedish clowns out of 10.