The Movie Waffler New Release Review [VOD] - PENNYWISE: THE STORY OF IT | The Movie Waffler


Pennywise: The Story of It review
The making of the 1990 mini-series adaptation of Stephen King's novel.

Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: John Campopiano, Gary Smart

Featuring: Tim Curry, Tommy Lee Wallace, Seth Green, Richard Thomas

Pennywise: The Story of It poster

Stephen King's 'It' is my favourite book and has been ever since it was first released in 1986. The recent two movies based on this book, It Chapter 1 & 2, are my favourite films of all time; but I’ve always hated the miniseries that came out in 1990. So when I was asked to review this documentary about the miniseries, I was thinking it would be a challenge to review it fairly. However, this isn’t the miniseries, this is a film about the miniseries, and so must be judged in that way.

Starting with a wonderful scene of King explaining an experience that was the starting point for the creation of 'It', I uneasily settled in to watch this documentary.

Pennywise: The Story if It review

What I particularly enjoyed about this was the discussion about the stories behind the tale of 'It', King’s inspirations, and the themes of 'It', which are universal: childhood, friendship, memory, connections and growing up.

This is an exhaustive retelling of how the miniseries was made, featuring interviews with the entire cast, the director and many behind-the-scenes crew members.

The early involvement of George A Romero, and the initial plans to make a 10 hour miniseries was a surprise to me, and I can’t help but wonder what that would have looked like had it eventuated.

As it is we have director Tommy Lee Wallace and writer Larry Cohen discussing how they condensed this rich narrative into a two-part series.

I liked the exploration of coulrophobia (fear of clowns) and its connection to serial killer John Wayne Gacy - that’s truly interesting stuff.

If you loved Tim Curry’s performance, there’s much here for you to enjoy with an entire chapter dedicated to him and how he created his version of Pennywise.

Pennywise: The Story if It review

The people behind the miniseries talk a lot about the casting, which is very hit and miss though the miniseries-makers seem to feel they did a good job across the board. Miscasting was a huge problem with this version of 'It', but this documentary is happy to gloss over that. However, the discussion concerning the skills of child actor Johnathan Brandis, who played main character Bill and was tragically lost to suicide in 2003, was moving and effective. The loss of the wonderful John Ritter is also keenly felt.

The exploration of the mostly successful practical effects is a nice time-capsule of things that are missing in a lot of modern horror, but it also highlights a lot of what I don’t like about the miniseries - a lack of understanding of Pennywise’s true identity and the story’s ultimate heart. The director Wallace and special effects creator John Lazarowich in particular seem to have a minimal understanding of the deeper themes of the book, not to mention even basic story beats, and for me this explains a lot.

Perhaps if you saw the miniseries when you were a less discerning child you would’ve enjoyed it and would view it now with rose-coloured nostalgic glasses; but I saw it when I was 17 and despised it on sight.

As a documentary, this is detailed to the point of minutiae and that isn’t particularly interesting unless you are passionate about the subject. I enjoyed the dialogue about the actual novel and story of 'It', but there’s a lot of filler and the documentary could have done with some tighter editing.

Pennywise: The Story if It review

To its credit this is not just a bunch of talking heads; it is packed full of behind the scenes footage and gives a good background into why certain decisions were made; but it lacks any kind of ‘dirt’ that would make this compelling viewing. It’s a cuddly jumper love letter rather than an actual tell-all and the lack of grit gives it the bland feeling of a DVD extra stretched out over two hours.

This is clearly made by people who have good feelings about the miniseries, and so I’m sure that if you feel the same way, you will enjoy this.

For me its a 2/5. For fans of the series I’m sure it’s double that.

Pennywise: The Story of It is on UK/ROI VOD from October 3rd, followed by a DVD/bluray release on October 24th.

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