REVIEW / HORROR
135 minutes/Now showing/4 stars
The story: In the late 1980s, kids in the town of Derry, Maine, are disappearing with alarming frequency. When Bill's (Jaeden Lieberher) younger brother vanishes, he becomes obsessed with the idea that the child is lost in the sewers. No one believes him, least of all his friends in school, the group others call The Losers' Club.
Watching this is like listening to a perfect pop hit on the car radio - one can clearly sense the intense finessing and production that has gone into the work and just how cleverly manipulative and formulaic it is.
But when the chorus drops, you throw your head back and sing along.
Despite it being buffed to perfection - the lip quiver that signifies a kid conquering fear to enter a sewer, the long shot of the gang on bikes, cycling down leafy streets to meet their destiny on the edge of town - it is impossible to resist this film's feel-good appeal.
This reviewer has not read the Stephen King novel on which the movie is based, but one can be certain that much of this work's irresistibility rests on the visual storytelling of Argentine director Andres Muschietti.
Like J.J. Abrams in Super 8 (2011) and the Duffer brothers in Netflix's Stranger Things (2016) series, Muschietti has absorbed every trick from every 1980s kids-on- bikes movie, including E.T. (1982) and Stand By Me (1986, another King adaptation).
The writers (among them Emmy- winning director Cary Fukunaga, who penned the draft) wisely give this a more contemporary NC16 update.
There are plenty of jokes at the kids' expense (one's a boy-band fan, another is a whiny germophobe), but they are not just nerds who suffer at the hands of bullies at school.
They are victims at home too, of sexual abuse and emotional blackmail.
They drop the F-bomb plenty, but at the end of the day, they are still children, pretending to be braver than they are, facing the monster robbing them of their childhood.