Not every Stephen King movie adaptation can be as good as “It.”
This one, “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” doesn’t come close to being as compelling or interesting. But it’s an above-average creepy story – just in time for Halloween – about a cranky recluse (Donald Sutherland) and a boy who, though the years, grows up to admire his benefactor.
John Lee Hancock, known for “The Blind Side,” wrote and directed the film based on King’s story.
Sutherland is Mr. Harrigan, who one day spies young Craig (Colin O’Brien) after the boy reads in church. Mr. Harrigan’s eyes aren’t what they used to be, so he hires Craig to read to him three times each week. They enjoy all kinds of classics, including “Dombey and Son,” and discuss the characters and themes.
This happens at the perfect time in Craig’s life. The boy is lost without his mother, who has died.
Years go by. Craig (now played by Jaeden Martell, “St. Vincent”) becomes a teenager and continues to read to Mr. Harrigan. By then, the two have become friends because of their shared affection for literature.
Craig occasionally talks about his personal life – for example, how a school bully has selected him as a target – with Mr. Harrigan.
Finally, the inevitable happens. Craig mourns the passing of his old friend. At the funeral, he puts Mr. Harrigan’s iPhone, which Craig purchased for him as a gift, into his pocket right before the coffin lid is shut.
Do I need to tell you more … especially since I already told you this is a Stephen King tale?
It has a general atmosphere of creepiness, and a “PG-13” rating that means it doesn’t wallow in gore in violence. Instead, it focuses on the friendship.
It’s more than serviceable. It’s engaging enough to hold a King fan’s interest for a couple of hours … it did mine, anyway … especially at this time of year.
2 ½ stars
Rated: PG-13 for foul language, brief violence, and scenes of death.
Running time: One hour and 44 minutes.
Streaming on Netflix.