How horrible a year is Hollywood having? Let's see: Summer attendance was the lowest in a quarter century. Even factoring in the global market, 2017 is setting records for big-budget bombs. Foreign moviegoers famous for eating up anything with American stars in spandex are staying home in droves. It's the industry's worst nightmare. Everybody everywhere is tired of the same old crap.
Ten years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine a new Alien or Transformers installment tanking, a Pirates or X-Men sequel being greeted by an intercontinental yawn, or the R-rated comedy being put on life support. Baywatch, Snatched, Rough Night — basically anything with punch lines except The Big Sick — came out of opening weekend without a pulse.
People in Tinseltown are scratching their heads, wondering why the world didn't go bananas over Tom Cruise cranking up a new Mummy franchise while the most recent is still playing on basic cable. Repeat after me: Everybody everywhere is tired of the same old crap.
Audiences haven't just been starved for good movies. They've been starved for movies, period. This Labor Day weekend was the first in 25 years not to feature a wide release. Hollywood has thrown up its arms.
Which was just fine with New Line Cinema. Guess what happened over the weekend when it released a lazily conceived remake with zero stars and a one-hit director — but the name Stephen King subliminally attached? Yup, Americans stampeded to the cineplex. Even though it's the same old crap.
Directed by Andy Muschietti (Mamá), It is less a remake than a recycling. The film tells only the first half of the story told in the book and the 1990 film adaptation. And Muschietti reshapes the source material to allow appropriation of visuals and tropes from King-based classics such as Carrie, The Shining, Dolores Claiborne and, most flagrantly, Stand by Me. This homage, if that's what it is, backfires by reminding us how infinitely superior those pictures were.
I won't even list the names of this film's young actors. They probably wouldn't mean anything to you, and each character is barely more than a pitch-session stereotype. An outcast group of kids in a small Maine town inexplicably attracts the attention of a supernatural clown. The opening scene in which the psychotic carny lures an unsuspecting boy into a rain sewer is borderline creepy, but it's all downhill from there.
The tubby boy, the stuttering boy, the potty-mouthed boy, the girl who's abused by her father until she triumphantly kung-fus him — all are put through two-plus hours of jump-scare, haunted-house and creaky-door paces. CGI and sudden soundtrack blasts stand in for authentic horror jolts. There are even basements not to go into which, naturally, are gone into. And the longer all of this drags on, the more of a drag it becomes.
A number of scenes featuring nasty things happening to children are in bad taste, I'd argue. And just how terrifying is a clown whose supernatural ass can be kicked by a bunch of fed-up preteens, anyway? Did I mention he bears a striking resemblance to Gene Simmons?
Try to remember the last really good film based on a King work. Unless I'm forgetting something (Firestarter 2: Rekindled?), it's The Green Mile. And that came out last century. Yup, Hollywood has big problems. In 2017, King may still be a brand. But nothing based on his books comes close to feeling brand-new.