A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that It is a made-for-TV miniseries from 1990 based on a Stephen King novel (not to be confused with the 2017 movie adaptation). It centers on a long series of unsolved child murders, and while the worst of the nasty stuff is kept offscreen, there are still apparitions of semi-decayed juvenile ghosts, a werewolf, a fanged clown, and other monsters. Blood is shown frequently, gurgling out of drains and splashed around the community, but it's "supernatural" blood, only visible to the terrorized heroes and not other people.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Based on Stephen King's novel, IT is set in the fictional town of Derry, Maine, where a supernatural curse has caused waves of violence, murders, and disappearances -- mostly of children -- since colonial times. Now, town librarian Mike Hanlon (Tim Reid) is calling a widely scattered group of adults who were once tight-knit friends as kids. Hanlon wants them to honor the promise they made back in 1958 to reunite and fight It once again, if It ever resurfaced. And It has -- children are disappearing or being horribly mutilated. Flashbacks show the difficult childhoods of the group, which includes successful architect Ben (John Ritter), and prominent fashion designer Beverly (Annette O'Toole). Once known as "The Losers," they were constantly tormented by town bully Henry (Michael Cole) and his creepy gang. But a worse threat soon materializes, a demonic clown called Pennywise (Tim Curry), who first kills the little brother of future successful novelist-scriptwriter George (Richard Thomas). Both in 1958 and in the present, Pennywise taunts the various Losers and assumes the shapes of their worst fears.
Is it any good?
Director Tommy Lee Wallace makes some of the shocks work, and it's interesting seeing young actors (like Seth Green) matched against the adult ones (like Harry Anderson) playing the same part. But the ponderous nature of the twin-timelined material makes this a long trip (originally a TV miniseries, it's over three hours long). And, besides being a metaphor for the adversities of youth, what exactly is Pennywise, anyway? Once must read the 1,000 page Stephen King book to find out.
The flashbacks are often repetitious, to keep the TV viewer up on the story over successive nights and commercial breaks of the miniseries. And too bad It was made before computer graphics came into wide use. Instead, stiff puppetry and stop-motion depict such hallucinatory horrors as Pennywise squeezing out of tiny drains and turning into monsters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the theme of friendship among the outcast kids in the movie and how it creates a secret world for them, one which (unlike the town's mainstream society of adults) allows them to perceive more clearly the menace of Pennywise and devise a plan to fight him. The plot continually hops across a 30-year timespan, seeing these characters both as grown ups and children.
Parents can talk about reunions with their own old friends and the importance of staying in touch (whether to defend against evil demons or for slightly more sentimental reasons).
For kids who love horror
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