“It Chapter Two” Movie Review


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     Given the fact 2017’s “It” chose to tell only the first half of Stephen King’s novel of which the film was based on, we always knew a sequel featuring the adult versions of the Losers Club would arrive as quickly as director Andy Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman could get the film done.  Why, do you ask?  The first installment stands as the highest grossing R-rated film of all time, beefing up Warner Brothers’ coffers to the tune of over $700 million world wide.  And there was no denying the 2017 adaptation was a superior horror film, both in its narrative choices, as well as the high level of craft behind the camera.  But there was something else of which you only begin to realize after viewing “It Chapter Two”.

     With the additions of an A-list cast commissioned to play the the child characters who are now 27 years older that includes the likes of Jessica Chastain, James McCoy, and Bill Hader, it’s unfortunate none of them are nearly as interesting or compelling as the younger versions are.  A fact that makes “It” a far superior film to “It Chapter Two”, but that’s not to say the later doesn’t have the kind of memorable moments that are certain to draw the masses to the theater.  Clocking in at an amazingly long 2 hours and 49 minutes, Muschietti stuffs this bloated sequel to the absolute maximum with lengthy detours and unnecessary set pieces which could’ve been left on the cutting room floor and perhaps may have allowed for a much leaner and maybe even scarier film.

     Bill (James McAvoy / Jaeden Martell), Mike (Isaiah Mustafa / Chosen Jacobs), Richie (Bill Hader / Finn Wolfhard), Beverly (Jessica Chastain / Sophia Lillis), Ben (Jay Ryan / Jeremy Ray Taylor), Eddie (James Ransone / Jack Grazer), and Stanley (Andy Bean / Wyatt Oleff), always knew they would eventually have to confront Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) once more, should he ever resurface in their small home town of Derry, Maine.  They took a blood oath stating if the evil should ever return, they too would reunite and ensure the terrifying entity is put down for good.  With the first film taking place in 1989, amongst a litany of “Stranger Things” fueled nostalgia, the story picks up in 2016 where all but one of our protagonists are living lives far away from their childhood home, and hate within the town has brought forth another unwanted visit by that distinctive clown.

     “It Chapter Two” opens with a sequence that sees a local gang of thugs brutally beating a gay couple after they are seen being affectionate at a Derry carnival.  The kind of R-rated violence shown in the scene is the same hyper realistic mean spirited type you would see in a Quentin Tarantino film.  And both of the victims are beaten to within an inch of their lives simply because of their lifestyle, indicating within the construct of the story that evil is alive and well in Derry, thus facilitating the return of Pennywise.  There are other incidents as well, none of which are going unnoticed by Mike, the lone remaining member of the Losers Club in Derry, who decides it is time to get the group together and make good on the promise they made 27 years prior.

     The lives of our main players have changed significantly since we last saw them.  Some for the better, if you consider wealth and success, but their are obvious underlying issues which remain from the encounter with Pennywise in their teens.  Bill is a screenwriter in Hollywood, while Ben is an influential architect who has also transformed himself physically from the chubby kid we remember.  Richie is a standup comic, and the others also seem to have found a niche that has allowed them to live a comfortable life, monetarily speaking.  But when Mike calls, each has a negative physical reaction that includes vomiting, anxiety, and depression that stems from the mere thought of once again confronting their greatest fears.  And though each of them must somehow explain away the need to pick up and go, the group heads directly to the hometown they had long since left behind.

     If Muschietti had kept the momentum going following an effective scene in which the Losers Club reunites at a Chinese restaurant, the film likely would’ve been every bit as sharp and compelling as the first installment was.  We’ve already seen Pennywise, so the shock factor the 2017 film had going for it has waned quite a bit, meaning the exploits of the human characters and our willingness to buy into their journey is crucial for the story to succeed.  Seeing these characters as a group is where they perform the strongest, but the script sends each of them on a time consuming trek to find a token from their past that in theory is to be used in some sort of ritual to rid the town of Pennywise.  You’ve already seen where Beverly goes in the film’s trailer, and that’s likely because it is the best of the individual sequences. But after enduring a separate scene for each character, and you realize none of it actually figures into the resolution,  the entire middle hour can become tedious at best.

     Ultimately, despite some really large speed bumps, the story is told effectively while utilizing a number of jaw dropping and creative visuals thanks in part to Skarsgard’s creepy performance and Muschietti’s eye for getting every bit of shock value from each scene.  There are sequences where Pennywise utilizes his costume to entice children into the darkness to become his latest victims which don’t seem to figure into the story at all, but when the Losers Club is together on screen using their smarts and experience from their first encounter to their advantage, the film is at its strongest.  There isn’t anything as shocking as the opening of the first film where we see Georgie’s demise, but there is also no question as to how high the stakes are from the opening frame to the last.  “It Chapter Two” doesn’t rely on characters whose actions are played for laughs in other words, as we feel a noticeable and consistent undercurrent of how the traumas the Losers Club endured as kids at the hands of Pennywise has continued to affect them as adults.  This is about as serious, and at times as deep, as a horror film can get.  GRADE: C+