MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Andy Muschietti. Starring Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher
If you want to make a movie that is going to have wide appeal, you can’t go wrong featuring a group of outcasts who somehow don’t fit in. That’s most of us, folks. Whenever a church or a school finds itself intentionally including previously marginalized groups you can be sure that the kingdom of God is beginning to appear. Sadly, this is hard to do and most of us spend our lives hunkered down with people just like us.
Stephen King’s It is a massive 1,100-page novel about childhood fears and it packs quite a wallop. It is often the first really big novel that teenagers read and it has been popular since its publication in 1986. The book was made into an incredibly popular TV miniseries in 1990 and is mostly remembered for Tim Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise, the creepy clown.
The story takes place in Derry, Maine, a lovely little town with an old-fashioned Main Street, a local drug store, and a quarry where kids can go to swim. Although the book is set in the 1960’s, this film borrows the nostalgia factor of last year’s Netflix series Stranger Things and takes place in the 80’s. The town looks sunny and bright, but for the young teens who call themselves “The Losers Club” it is often a dark and troubled place. They are bullied and humiliated regularly by the kids at school, only to come home to parents who are equally dismissive or absent.
Young Bill Denbrough (Lieberher) lives with grief over the loss of his beloved younger brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) who disappeared one day when he was out sailing a paper boat down a gutter in the pouring rain. If you’ve seen the trailer for It you already know the tragic demise of Georgie.
Bill decides to spend the summer looking for his brother, assisted by his outcast friends that include a kid with a smothering mother (Jack Dylan Grazer), a heavyset and sensitive soul (Jeremy Ray Taylor), a black farm kid whose parents died tragically (Chosen Jacobs), a rabbi’s son who consistently disappoints his father (Wyatt Oleff), a wisecracking wimp (Finn Wolfhard of “Stranger Things”) (that’s me at thirteen), and a tough-skinned girl with an undeserved reputation (Sophia Lillis). We get to see all of their backstories as they begin to solve the mysteries around Derry.
And yes, Pennywise the creepy clown shows up, well played by Bill Skarsgård. While the film highlights this character, the dark presence known as “It” takes other guises to work on the individual fears of each kid.
So, yes, there are some good scares and a lot of silly swearing. But I have already encouraged a couple of friends to take their inquisitive middle-school children to see It and to then spend time talking about the movie. At the core of the film is a message of encouragement to master your fears by joining forces with trustworthy (and also vulnerable) friends. In this age of social media shaming and gun violence, it’s good to remember that no one should have to surrender to victimization; together we can build a better world.
All of the young cast is great. I was impressed the most by Sophia Lillis and Jeremy Ray Taylor and their tender scenes together, but it is a great ensemble. Part Two of It will take place 27 years later with adult versions of the kids; they will have a tough act to follow.
At the showing that I attended, the theater was filled with families with children ages 10 and up. I can’t remember the last time that I saw an R-rated horror film with intergenerational appeal. But now I’ve seen It.
Four halos: Behind the scares and the creepy clown, there are positive and uplifting messages about courage and friendship.
Three pitchforks: A lot of young teen swearing and naïve sex talk; some scenes of intense, brief violence; bullying from youth and adults; a scene of sexual dread.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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