Chalk it up to rock bottom expectations, but “It” blew me away when it arrived in theaters mainly because it exceeded my expectations and proved to be a stellar film all around. Andres Muschetti already killed it with his adaptation of his short “Mama,” but he brings his same sensibility in another coming of age tale where pure evil meets innocence. “It” is a masterstroke of a reboot, a movie that pays tribute to the original novel and re-invents every aspect from the ground up for a new audience without dumbing down the material.
It’s apt that John Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club” would be granted a Criterion release, as it’s still one of the most riveting character studies ever released. While it’s often imitated, Hughes’ 1985 drama stands alone as a hallmark of simplicity, grabbing a cast at the top of their game in a decade, offering up truly remarkable performances in already seasoned careers. “The Breakfast Club” was basically “The Big Chill.” Except for a drama being about people in the middle of their lives, we’re able to sit down for ninety minutes with five young people at the beginning of their lives pondering on what they could become as adults, what they don’t want to become as adults, and what they fear they will become as adults.
Nickelodeon’s “Hey Arnold!” was one of the banner animated series from the heyday of the 1990’s. It was a subtle, sweet, and often funny coming of age show with a lot of heart and some brilliantly memorable moments that evoked pure emotion from its audience. Despite ending in 2004, Nickelodeon gave the series a final send off in 2002 with a flimsy and absolutely wretched big screen film that did nothing to close the world we’d come to love. Most of all, it did nothing for the story arc of main character Arnold, who spent a majority of the series under the care of his elderly eccentric grandparents.
Mid-way through the series, we learned that Arnold’s parents were explorers who spent their days traveling, and the last they ever saw of him was before they left for one last adventure to help a village suffering from a mysterious illness.
If the premise for “Happy Death Day” sounds eerily similar a certain Bill Murray comedy where a man has to re-live the same day over and over, it’s not you. “Happy Death Day” is unofficially a remake of said movie but with a murder mystery injected for good measure. The thing about “Happy Death Day” is that it knows it’s literally a redoing of “Groundhog Day.” Seriously, it literally stops to acknowledge the fact that we’re watching a modern re-imagining of a sort. Not that that hinders the experience of “Happy Death Day” thankfully. Through and through it’s mediocre, but it charms as an engaging coming of age romance painted in the shade of a horror comedy.
At best I’d say that “A Witches’ Ball” is a serviceable movie. It’s exactly the kind of movie you’d find at Walmart one day that you’d probably buy for your daughter in hopes of distracting her with a fantasy while you’re preparing for dinner or something. It’s mediocre and hits about all the right beats for a movie heavily aimed toward small girls. Director Justin G. Dyck is a man whose entire filmography revolves around filming cheaply made, holiday oriented, family films and “A Witches’ Ball” s right up his alley.
McG’s newest film tries to be everything for everyone. And while it doesn’t always work, I loved “The Babysitter” for being so self aware most of the time. It’s not just a horror comedy about a really hot babysitter who turns out to be a Satanist, but it’s also a film packed with heart. It’s about growing up, learning to conquer your fears and insecurities, and learning that in life you have to take your lumps instead of finding the easy way out. Don’t get me wrong, “The Babysitter” is a fun and demented horror comedy, but it’s also a stellar coming of age film, as well. Writer Brian Duffield successfully conceives a slew of characters that learn something about each other and come to some kind of self realization.
Andrés Muschietti’s “It” has proven in a year of really bad Stephen King adaptations, that it is very possible to put one of King’s most popular novels on screen and remind us once again why King is King. Muschietti, like Tommy Lee Wallace before him, has the daunting task of compressing an eleven hundred page novel in to what will end up being a five hour epic. Yet, “It” manages to come out mostly unscathed as a film that is both a spooky horror film and a stellar coming of age drama. Much like “Mama,” Muschietti’s work on “It” ends in a film that can be appreciated as a human drama and a pure horror movie packed with heart, scares, insight in to growing up in an unforgiving, cruel world.