Mr. Harrigan’s Phone Review

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is the second best Blumhouse Production this year with a phone featured prominently in the plot and adapted from a work by Stephen King or someone in his immediate family. That might be praiseworthy if there were ten, but there’s just The Black Phone (stemming from a story by Stephen’s son Joe Hill) and this one from Dad.

In 2003, young Craig (Colin O’Brien) loses his mother and leads a lonely life in Maine with his father (Joe Tippett). The grieving is broken up when the wealthiest man in the state Mr. Harrigan (Donald Sutherland) gives him a job. Craig travels to his mansion three times a week to read thick novels to the elderly listener whose eyesight is weak – from Crime and Punishment to Lady Chatterly’s Lover and Heart of Darkness. These classic tales hold more meaning for Craig as five years pass and he grows into Jaeden Martell (from a far stronger King adaptation It)So does his friendship with Harrigan as they both are seeking meaningful companionship.

By 2008, a bad apple threatens to poison the bond. That would be Apple’s iPhone. The new device is all the rage and Craig eventually convinces his dad to get him one. This game of telephone continues when the teenager gifts one to his billionaire reading club compadre. The once uninterrupted reading sessions are briefly disrupted by the device’s easy ability to distract.

It takes an unnecessarily long time to reach this point, but (spoiler alert?) Harrigan dies (something revealed in the trailer). Craig makes the seemingly kind gesture of placing the departed’s Steve Jobs application in the casket. Saved under his contacts as The Pirate King (would’ve been a better title than this extremely generic one), Craig soon discovers a potentially supernatural connection with his late friend.

Phone comes from John Lee Hancock, whose biggest hits have been inspirational sports dramas like The Rookie and The Blind Side. This could’ve used a lot more pep as this is a frequently drab affair. There were creepier consistencies in his last picture The Little Things, which I found far more recommendable than this. In fact, this is about as frightening as The Rookie or The Blind Side. 

Sutherland and Martell are of no fault. Their chemistry makes the first half or so far more tolerable. The film’s concept probably better fit the short story format that the legendary author framed it in. When Harrigan is buried, this becomes a ho hum revenge saga with a boring high school bully (Cyrus Arnold) and then a kindly teacher (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) who is wronged. It also stumbles with its attempts to say something about our overuse of technology.

Despite the chemistry of the two leads, the screenplay from Hancock is a disservice to them. I took the novel approach with Mr. Harrigan’s Phone – meaning reading one by King or one of the ones Craig recites would have been a wiser use of my minutes.

** (out of four)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: