“When The Gods Wish to Punish Us, They Answer Our Prayers.” –Oscar Wilde

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone (2022)

The title quote is an Oscar Wilde quote used in the movie adaptation of Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, not a King quote.

I did say I was going to blog some movies/adaptations… although don’t expect these to come in order. Probably not on any specific days either, at least for now. But I’ve watched a few recently and I’m working on putting them up. I thought I’d start with Mr. Harrigan’s Phone.

The story “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” was adapted as a movie of the same name for Netflix, not as a theatrical release. A funny bit of trivia is that both Stephen King and Joe Hill had phone-related stories being released around the same time. (The Joe Hill movie was Black Phone, starring Ethan Hawke, and I really recommend watching it, if you haven’t.)

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, much like the story itself, is not bad, but also not amazing. It’s fine. “Fine” always translates as “good but bland” in my head. Given the hit-and-miss nature of Stephen King adaptations and the fact that it was a straight-to-streaming movie, that’s actually pretty notable.

It was a very straightforward adaptation. If you’re the kind of person who likes it when movies don’t veer from their source material at all, this is the film for you. Whoever made it was not trying to make their own statement or editorialize, even minimally. This is just a straight-up visual retelling of the story in If It Bleeds. The acting is decent. I’m not an expert on camera work, but it looked good to me.

The thing is, the story itself is not much. It’s certainly not a horror story, ghost texts notwithstanding. It’s more like a coming-of-age story. It’s not a super exciting one, but it’s sweet in places and sad in others and reasonably engaging for the 80 or 90 pages it lasts. And the movie is all those things over its hour and 45-minute runtime. You’re not going to watch this and think you just saw a masterpiece, and if you struggle with slower-paced movies, you may be bored. But probably, you’ll be engaged by the story while it lasts and mostly forget about it shortly after it’s over.

That’s not the end of the world — lots of movies are like that. And the story, while enjoyable enough to read, is no “The Body” (thinking in terms of a King coming-of-age story I can compare this to. If you’ve forgotten, “The Body” is the source for the movie Stand by Me) so maybe it’s not surprising that the movie didn’t turn out to be dramatically more attention-grabbing.

If anything, it’s just a bit frustrating that there are so many King adaptations that are either wildly different from story material that I’d like to see a more faithful adaptation of (The Running Man comes to mind) or are just actively bad adaptations of good source material (The Dark Tower, hello! The recent version of Firestarter also jumps to mind) but we get a decent and faithful adaptation of… “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone”? I mean, why? But that’s not really the fault of the movie or the people who made it.

My best recommendation is this: the next time you are out of things to watch, or just curious about adaptations, or you want something with a decent message that’s easy to digest, or you want a movie that’s probably not going to scare or offend anyone in a group with a lot of diverse tastes, or you want to introduce a kid to Stephen King content but aren’t sure how they’ll handle serious scares, or you just want a movie that feels good and doesn’t make you work too hard and also isn’t completely vacuous, watch this one. It really will work in any of those situations, and that’s not a knock — those are actually a whole lot of common situations that a lot of movies really don’t work in. Just don’t go in expecting the story to have been horrored up, made more exciting, or made more meaningful than it really is, because you’re not going to get any of that. It’s fine for what it is as long as you’re not expecting it to be what it isn’t.


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