Whatever happened to Danny?
We’re talking about the boy from “The Shining,” the REDRUM kid, the one gifted with extra-sensory talents. Having survived the madness of his father and the supernatural rumblings of the Overlook Hotel, did Danny have any kind of normal life?
The question interested Stephen King enough to inspire his 2013 novel, “Doctor Sleep.” The film version of this book has been re-tooled so that it’s more of a direct sequel to “The Shining” — but not a sequel to King’s “Shining.” Very specifically, it’s a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 movie.
The look, sound and many of the characters from Kubrick’s masterpiece are re-created in “Doctor Sleep.” This makes for a strange movie-watching experience. Even when it’s not clicking (and that’s fairly often), “Doctor Sleep” is intriguing.
But only if you’re already a fan of “The Shining.” Otherwise, this thing will be baffling.
A few early scenes return us to the Overlook Hotel circa 1980, including actors resembling the Kubrick players. Alex Essoe does an uncanny imitation of Shelley Duvall’s worried mom, and Carl Lumbly captures the sighing Scatman Crothers as Danny’s spirit guide.
In the present day, Danny (played with strong emotional commitment by Ewan McGregor) has hit bottom. Relocating to a small New Hampshire town and going sober, he builds a life still haunted by the past.
His paranormal “shining” powers put him in touch with an adolescent girl, Abra (excellent newcomer Kyleigh Curran), who is similarly gifted. Their destinies will connect and eventually lead to the now-derelict Overlook Hotel in Colorado.
The oddball wrinkle in King’s story (adapted for the screen by director Mike Flanagan) is a troupe of soul-sucking vagabonds who would very much like to steal the life force (or “steam”) from Danny and Abra.
Rebecca Ferguson plays their wily leader. She’s been alive for centuries, but chooses to dress like she’s on tour with Lynyrd Skynyrd in the 1970s.
Ferguson is terrific in the part, nevertheless. Nothing wrong with her being a mainstay of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, but maybe this will be the role that breaks her out into rangier things.
Among her minions are Zhan McClarnon, a spooky presence, and Emily Alyn Lind, as a teenager who punishes creepy old dudes for their predatory come-ons. This movie has a good eye for people.
It’s not quite as confident with storytelling, and at 131 minutes, it’s overextended. When we finally reach the Overlook, the film slows down to geek out over the re-created sets — including that troublesome elevator with its torrents of blood.
It’s eerie to revisit the Kubrick film, and would be even more so if Steven Spielberg hadn’t already included a long “Shining” sequence in “Ready Player One.” What is it about Kubrick’s film that won’t let us go?
In the end, “Doctor Sleep” is a little too connected to its predecessor to take wing (or even to be all that scary). I enjoyed it for the “Shining” connections, but at this point we can let the ghosts of the Overlook go back to sleep.
“Doctor Sleep” (2½ stars)
An adaptation of Stephen King’s quasi-sequel to “The Shining,” in which the little boy is grown (played by Ewan McGregor) and haunted by ghosts of the past. The re-creation of Stanley Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel is interesting to watch, and the actors are committed, but this one doesn’t quite take flight on its own — and isn’t really scary enough. With Rebecca Ferguson.
Rating: R, for violence, language, subject matter
Opening Friday: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Seattle 10, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall