Title: It Chapter Two
Describe This Movie In One Happy Gilmore Quote:
HAPPY: You're gonna die, clown!
Brief Plot Synopsis: Adults return to the scene of their childhood trauma to battle evil once again. Like Sleepers, only with extraterrestrials.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 3 Knights Who Say "Ni" out of 5.
Tagline: "You'll float again."
Better Tagline: "And after nearly three hours, so will your eyeballs."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: In the nearly 30 years since banishing the sinister, child-eating clown Pennywise, the so-called Losers' Club are summoned back to Derry by Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), and most drop whatever they're doing to comply. Ben (James McAvoy) leaves the set of the movie he's written, for example, while Richie (Bill Hader) ditches a stand-up tour, and Beverly (Jessica Chastain) flees her wealthy, abusive husband. It seems children are disappearing again, and the Losers need to find a way to destroy Pennywise once and for all.
"Critical" Analysis: 27 years marks the gap in time between when the monster colloquially known as "It" or "Pennywise" rises to feast on the children of Derry, Maine. Coincidentally, it's also the period between the 1990 TV miniseries and 2017's adaptaion of the Stephen King classic. Now, two years later, comes Chapter Two, thereby rendering the similarity utterly meaningless.
Maybe It Chapter Two would have benefited from a Richard Linklater style approach — using the original actors nearly three decades later to complete the story — but probably not. IC2 isn't as effective as its predecessor, but it isn't bad. The sequel's problems are a product of its overstuffed runtime and a failure to recapture the themes that made the first movie so memorable.
The first It was a huge success (it's currently the highest grossing horror movie of all time) and set a high-water mark for a new age of King adaptations. A "Stephenaissance," if you will. Unfortunately, director Andy Muschietti may have succumbed to the fate specific to filmmakers whose early works are such breakout hits, in which they evidently believe they no longer require editors (call it "Lucas/Jackson syndrome"). It Chapter Two is almost three hours long, and there's no real reason for this.
We spend a lot of time revisiting 1989 Derry, filling in some gaps in the Losers' Club pasts while doing little to move the story forward. A scene involving a heretofore unseen clubhouse simply sets up a brief sequence for Ben, while Richie and Eddie get their own Pennywise encounters in what might as well be deleted scenes from the first movie. There's also a flashback to Richie and Stan's friendship that feels like backfill to justify current events.
Worse, these are in service to a horror trope so creaky it's been lampooned since the 1980s. We're to believe the first things the Losers do upon returning to town to combat ancient evil they were only able to sort of defeat decades ago by standing together is ... split up to confront their individual childhood fears? Not deciding until each of them almost die that now they should stick together? Come on.
And if our first trip to Derry ended with our heroes confronting the horrors of adolescence (manifested in the form of a giant clown) and the uncertainty of gradually navigating adulthood, Chapter Two just ends. Given the source, there are deifinitely worse routes Muschietti and writer Gary Dauberman could have gone.* There's also a joke to be made here about the metatextual context of a character played by Stephen King referencing Bill's books having bad endings in a Stephen King adaptation with a bad ending, but this review is long enough as it is.
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Given the star power on display here, it's mildly surprising (though not to anyone who's seen Barry) that Hader runs away with the movie. Every scene with Richie is perfect, and not just the comedic ones. As the hyperchondriac Eddie, James Ransone effectively exorcises the ghost of Ziggy Sobotka, and Mustafa carries himself well in a beefed-up role for Mike, who's as integral to the sequel as he was largely invisible in the first movie.
More disappointing is how little chemisty the ostensible leads have. McAvoy seems adrift at times, and wishing he were elsewhere at others. Chastain, a gifted actor, does what she can with a thinly written role, but Bev and Bill should be the center of this, yet are outshone by their co-stars.
In spite of the bloat, there are some decent scares (that bleacher scene ... woof), and Hader almost makes Chapter Two watching on his own. In the end, as anyone who's ever attended a high school reunion will tell you, you *can* go home again, you'll just have to deal with some clowns along the way.
* Makes you wonder how much of the original's effectiveness came from Cary Fukunaga and Chase Palmer's early scripts.