GREG'S GRADE: C-
Throughout its first two acts, "Doctor Sleep" is a fairly faithful adaptation of Stephen King's 2013 novel of the same name, telling a story of addiction and redemption, and featuring Ewan McGregor in a typically solid, if unspectacular, lead performance. This, however, is a sequel to "The Shining," both King's 1977 novel and Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film.
The problem is Kubrick took certain liberties in his adaptation — changes King seem to place special emphasis on ignoring while writing the sequel. That's a luxury Mike Flanagan, director and screenwriter of "Doctor Sleep," didn't have. Because so many regard the movie version of "The Shining" as an iconic, horror classic, its story must be respected. So in "Doctor Sleep" the movie, Dick Hallorann, the Overlook Hotel chef who mentored a young Danny Torrance and survived the novel, must appear as a ghost (Carl Lumbly), and more important, the Overlook Hotel, though condemned long ago, still stands.
The ending then is vastly different from what King wrote, which isn't necessarily wrong, but when middle-aged Dan Torrance (McGregor) wanders the foreboding corridors of the Overlook, it only serves to remind us of a superior film without adding anything to it. Even more problematic, familiar characters reappear with different actors portraying them, further calling attention to what this movie is not.
It all builds to a finale that plays as if the production ran out of money, then just shrugged and said, "Oh well."
Flanagan, who also adapted King's "Gerald's Game" in 2017, gets a lot right leading up to his misguided conclusion, however.
When we catch up with Dan, he's inherited his father's legacy of alcoholism and violence. Traumatized as a child, he's turned to drinking and drugs to dull his psychic abilities — known as the "shining" — and block out his ghostly visitors. Hopping on a bus and going as far as his money will take him, he ends up in small-town Frazier, N.H., where he gets sober with help from Alcoholics Anonymous and lands a job as a hospice orderly.
Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a teenage girl with the shining, instinctively seeks Dan out, in the process drawing the attention of Rose (Rebecca Ferguson), leader of the True Knot, a cult of virtual immortals that feeds on "steam," i.e the psychic power of children. Modern life has dulled those powers, though, and the members of the True Knot are starving and desperate to get their hands on someone like Abra.
Stepping into the role Dick once served for him, Dan aims to protect Abra and, because they know the Knot won't stop coming for her, to fight back.
This is all engrossing material, bringing Dan's story full circle without retreading old ground. Meanwhile, Flanagan establishes Rose and her followers as sinister antagonists who prove to be rather ineffective when the movie leaves King behind for its Kubrick-lite ending. Beholden to two sources, "Doctor Sleep" ultimately fails to satisfy either one.
Rated R for disturbing and violent content, some bloody images, language, nudity and drug use. 151 minutes.
Like Maki at the Movies on Facebook: www.facebook.com/MakiAtTheMovies.