Mr. Harrigan's Phone Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
An unconventional feature, with good performances & an intriguing premise, but with a boring plot! Nothing happens in this King adaptation.
Genre: Drama / Horror / Mystery
Director: John Lee Hancock
Cast: Jaeden Martell, Donald Sutherland, Joe Tippett, Colin O’Brien, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Cyrus Arnold, Thalia Torio, Daniel Reece & Chelsea Kurtz.
Run Time: 106 min.
US Release: 05 October 2022 (Netflix)
UK Release: 05 October 2022 (Netflix)
German Release: 05 October 2022 (Netflix)
Netflix and Stephen King go hand-in-hand nowadays. Since 2017 there have been three productions, with Mr. Harrigan’s Phone being the fourth one. In all honesty, I was really excited for this one, since I thought that Jaeden Martell did a great job in the IT features from 2017/2019, plus I was looking forward to seeing Donald Sutherland again in a spooky mystery flick. Once again, this Netflix release is more disappointing than satisfying. So grab your phones, a drink and join me for my review of this Stephen King filmisation.
Craig, a young boy living in a small town in Maine, befriends older, reclusive billionaire, Mr. Harrigan. The two form a bond over books and the newly released iPhone, yet when the old man passes away, Craig discovers that not everything that is dead, is really gone. The teenager soon finds himself able to communicate with his friend from the grave, through the smartphone that was buried with him.
Hancock, who also wrote the script for the novella’s adaptation, did a good enough job of capturing the sentimental essence of the short novel’s dramatic notes because, in the end, this is what Mr. Harrigan’s Phone really is about; a dramatic coming of age story with a few mysteries along the way. Sadly mismarketed as light horror, many were confused about the absence of jump scares or frightening visual happenings. It still contains eerie happenings that give a sense of discomfort, but that is not the film’s primary assignment.
Don’t get me wrong though… While I do admire the slow introduction to the characters, in which audiences can witness the growing friendship between the young boy and old Mr. Harrigan. While I appreciate the sad atmosphere engulfing the town of Harlow, including its inhabitants, the story is an absolute drag! Two short occurrences happen, which are spooky enough to spike one’s adrenaline level, however, other than that nothing else interesting takes place, leading to severe incoherent pacing!
Then there is the nonsensical cautionary message about how objects possess us, a metaphor for smartphone addiction, as well as a foreboding of the dangers of free information, which will be abused for misinforming fake news. The subject was concocted for the movie, however, trivial as it comes a decade too late, especially since it’s never picked up again. It just feels as if the novella did not have enough substance for a feature picture.
The dialogues between characters feel organic, as well as emotionally accurate to the situation. The discussions over literature, life and other subjects that manifest Craig’s friendship with Mr. Harrigan, are convincing. However, the main character also narrates the events, throughout the entire runtime, using the voiceover as an exposition dump technique.
Jaeden Martell as Craig did an amazing job! The character is well-fleshed out, having taken the time to introduce him properly to viewers, explaining his fears, doubts, pain and wishes. He is a smart kid, enjoying his time reading to old Harrigan, who in turn teaches him about life's morals. Martell really managed to capture the different emotions of the character, presenting them perfectly on screen. Sadly, after his friend’s death Craig’s life ventures on pretty normal, without truly remarkable things happening in his life.
Donald Sutherland was simply impeccable as the old reclusive business mogul Harrington. Sutherland’s chemistry with Martell was extraordinary! Both managed to sell their exceptional friendship. Concerning the character, it would have been interesting to delve more into the retired businessman’s past, to open up a conflict of right or wrong.
Joe Tippett and Kirby Howell-Baptiste, as Craig’s father and high school teacher respectively, are further memorable characters, who sadly don’t get enough screen time. Both could have served as a counter-weight to Harrigan’s rough life teachings.
The camera work is pretty generic, using standard close-ups, panoramic shots, long shots, as well as bird eye views. Not much creativity is put into cinematography or post-edit, as it all feels very digital, with the lighting and colour looking sterile plus desaturated. Regarding the overall palette of shades; the focus lies on a lot of autumn colours - browns, reds, yellows.
Effect-wise, there are barely any in use. The two deaths that happen are off-screen, with quick flashbacks showing the bodies, which use solid practical effects, though one is shown in near darkness for just a couple of seconds. The wardrobe resembles more of an 80s style than the early 2000s, as does the setting. The old New England mansion is pretty as a location but wasted in its potential creep factor.
Spanish composer Javier Navarrete wrote the music for this Netflix production, creating a very sombre, barely audible score that suits well the overall story, building up an atmosphere of mystery during specific moments that leads sadly into nothingness.
Verdict: John Lee Hancock was the wrong director to helm this adaptation of the Stephen King novella. Yes, he did a fantastic job at building up the characters throughout the first act, as well as manifesting their unusual friendship, hitting dramatic beats perfectly. After that, he drops the ball completely! The movie loses itself in meaningless messages that don’t have any payoff, barely anything of interest happens after the death of the elderly Harrigan, yet worst of all is the horrible pacing, ending with the sudden credit roll. Both lead actors had impeccable chemistry and played well off each other. It was a pleasure to see Donald Sutherland on screen again, even if some of his dialogues were unnecessary. Jaeden Martell also gave a brilliant performance, selling his sadness and pain, all while being a typical teenager. The cinematography is very standard, accompanied by a very sombre score. Mr. Harrigan’s Phone obtains a mediocre 4.5 out of 10.
Have you seen this Netflix production? What did you think? Do you agree with my review? Leave a comment to let me know!