The Film Buffa at the Movies: The verdict on the latest Stephen King adaptation

Stephen King could stop writing today and remain a literary giant for decades, maybe even the end of time. When it comes to cinema adaptations, Hollywood hasn’t gone to a single novelist’s story shed more than King. Among the better movies being “Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile,” among several others. The latest King tale to be turned into a movie landed on Netflix this week, “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone.”

Starring Jaeden Martell and Donald Sutherland as unlikely friends who share a bond over reading, the movie’s juice revolves around Sutherland’s rich Mr. Harrigan and Martell’s motherless high schooler named Craig bonding over the usage of an iPhone. Being based in 2003, this is when smart phones were just making an appearance, offering people a chance to stay connected to the internet and their contact list anywhere.

John Lee Hancock (a filmmaker with a wide-ranging taste in projects) tries to dig deep with the immoral time bomb that cell phones represented back then, even at the dawn of their popularity. One scene involves Harrigan laying out the next 20 years of smartphone soul corruption. How the information on the phone starts out free and then paywalls, misinformation, and fake news eroded every ounce of goodwill from the Steve Jobs-created device. Shortly after that, Mr. Harrigan dies and Craig’s last minute idea of slipping an iPhone in his casket has unruly and misguided repercussions.

I wouldn’t rank “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” anywhere near the top of King’s cinematic adaptations, but it’s an interesting movie that holds your attention for its entire run time. While Hancock’s script has a lot on his mind and the ideas become frayed with the second and third act unfolding sporadically, there’s something hauntingly restrained about this horror/thriller hybrid. It’s not another Netflix average dispatch; “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” delivers a thought-provoking coda in its final five minutes, even if it the result won’t wow you.

Sutherland and Martell give the plot and pacing credibility by digging into thinly composed characters, making you care for them and wonder about their unusual connection, one that takes another step or two towards creepy in its third act. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t, but I was never bored. That counts for something, even if the movie won’t hang in your mind for long after completion.

Verdict: Late night flick, not a prime time one.

What else is marinating on my cinematic brain?

-I will see Billy Eichner’s “Bros” for the simple fact that it looks like a funny movie. If I were you, avoid all the white noise and fallout from its underperformance at the box office, which doesn’t affect anybody except for the people who stand to profit from the movie.

-All I want for Halloween is for “Black Adam” to be good. If you don’t like comic book adaptations that aren’t directed by Christopher Nolan, skip to the next bit. Being a big fan of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and knowing what his cinematic strengths are, portraying an anti-hero in Adam is a perfect move for the most profitable movie star in Hollywood. Aldis Hodge, Pierce Brosnan, and Sarah Shahi being in the mix will help, but this is Johnson’s show. It doesn’t have to be perfect or even great. Just be good.

-Speaking of “good” movies that can be FUN instead of OSCAR WORTHY, count in for Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel dealing with armed pirates on their wedding day in “Shotgun Wedding,” and David Harbour facing off against Christmas bad guys in “A Violent Night.” They aren’t reinventing the movie wheel with their presence, but they just look like a SHIT ton of fun. That’s what the movies started out as back when French commercials became French short films: fun times. No prosthetic or depressing plot? No problem.

Turn off your brain and enjoy those babies.

That’s all for now. Have a good weekend.

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