Mr. Harrigan's Phone lacks a spooky dial tone


Legendary horror author Stephen King has another one of his works adapted into a movie in Mr. Harrigan's Phone from Netflix. John Lee Hancock directs and pens the screenplay for the film. At the same time, talented young actor Jaden Martell toplines his second Stephen King adaption, which is another supernatural coming-of-age story.

The film is an adaption of the same-titled short story from King's 2020 book If It Bleeds. Craig, a young boy living in a small town (Jaeden Martell), befriends Mr. Harrigan, an older, reclusive billionaire (Donald Sutherland). The two begin to form an unlikely bond over their love of books and reading. After Mr. Harrigan sadly passes away, Craig discovers that not everything is dead and gone. Craig strangely finds himself able to communicate with his friend from the grave through his iPhone.

When legendary director Brian DePalma successfully brought King's first published novel, Carrie, to the big screen in 1976, Hollywood realized they could continue to adapt the author's work. Film fanatics know of all the good ones, and the less said about the bad ones, the better.

I've been a fan of Jaeden Martell since his debut in 2014's St. Vincent. Possessing a natural screen presence for a child actor, Martell can even find a way to bring a solid performance to a mediocre movie (i.e., Aloha ). Furthermore, you can't go wrong with the acting talent of Donald Sutherland and the producing duo of Jason Blum& Ryan Murphy. However, Mr. Harrigan's Phone earns a place in the weaker Stephen King adaptations.

One would think after the illy received reception to 2016's Cell (another Stephen King adaptation that focuses on Cell phones) that writer-director John Lee Hanock would've brought his A-game to the film. I will give Hancock credit as the film does start strong. We get an introduction to our two lead characters, and the chemistry between Martell & Sutherland is evident.

There are subtle nuisances in the film that are all integral to the plot, primarily a caring teacher, lottery tickets, and bullies. Hancock effectively brings these elements into play. On special occasions and holidays, Harrigan sends Craig lottery tickets as a token of friendship. On Christmas Day 2007, Craig wins $10,000 on a scratch-off. The teen feels obligated to give some of his winnings to his employer.

After coming to an agreement with his dad, Craig decides to purchase Mr. Harrigan the newly released iPhone. With his old-school mindset, Mr. Harrigan dismisses the technology, but soon he is in awe of the iPhone. The majority of the film's first and second acts set this arc up before killing Mr. Harrigan off-screen. While grieving, Craig puts his employer/friend's iPhone in his coffin and calls it to stay in touch with Harrigan. Ghostly communication from beyond the grave results from this as Craig takes revenge on those bringing negativity into his life.

Perhaps the film and the original short story were intended to serve as a cautionary tale about cell phone addiction. Had the film gone that route, maybe the final result would be better. The script doesn't seem to figure out if it wants to be a murder mystery, coming-of-age film, or ghost story. While I will give credit to the two lead actors and the always delightful Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Mr. Harrigan's Phone dull plot and snails level pacing make the film one of Netflix's weaker Stephen King adaptations.

Final Grade : C-

Mr. Harrigan's Phone is available to stream tomorrow on Netflix.

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