Two years ago, Andy Muschietti (Mama) scored a big hit with his update of Stephen King’s It. Despite an R-rating, It managed approximately $327 million at the box office. Even the critics overwhelmingly endorsed the big-screen remake. We’re now amidst something of a Stephen King renaissance. Earlier this year, a Pet Sematary remake hit theatres. News also broke that James Wan would be tackling Salem’s Lot. But this is the one horror fans have been anticipating – Muschietti’s conclusion to the ‘Losers Club’s’ saga. Is It Chapter Two worth the trip back to Derry?
Twenty-seven years after ‘The Losers Club’ defeated him, Pennywise has returned to Derry. Now grown up, the ‘Losers’ have found fame and success outside of their hometown. All except Mike Hanlon, who stayed behind to watch for Pennywise’s return. Though their memories of that summer have faded, the ‘Losers’ keep their promise and return to fight Pennywise one last time. But can the childhood friends find a way to permanently kill the nightmarish clown this time?
Sequel Stretches Too Long, Feels Too Unfocused
On the surface, writer Gary Dauberman’s decision to break King’s novel up into its kid and adult storylines makes sense. The decision offers a natural break that’s somewhat aligned with the novel itself. But King’s novel interspersed these past and present storylines. Much of the novel, and the 2017 remake, relied heavily on the nostalgic childhood friendship. And it shows in It Chapter Two. Though the adult cast is stellar, the emotional bond between the ‘Losers’ doesn’t feel the same this time around. In part, this stems from the novel, which spent more time with the kids. Not surprisingly then, It Chapter Two is stocked with new flashbacks to the Losers’ past.
While It was a lean, focused scare-fest, Muschietti’s sequel will inevitably have you checking your watch.
Another problem that surfaces in the sequel is its length. Very few movies can justify a nearly three-hour running time. While It was a lean, focused scare-fest, Muschietti’s sequel will inevitably have you checking your watch. When it’s good, It Chapter Two is very good. But the sequel is overstuffed and, as a result, lacks focus. For the 2017 movie, Muschietti and Dauberman excised much of the novel’s character background, emphasizing Bill Denborough’s story. This meant some characters, particularly Mike Hanlon, got the short shrift in favour of tighter storytelling. When It Chapter Two takes us on each Losers’ journey through Derry to dredge up their pasts, it can’t help but slow things down.
It Chapter Two Trades Scares for Jokes
Scary and suspenseful, It had its share of lighter moments to allow audiences a chance to breathe. Whether it was Finn Wolfhard’s (Stranger Things) ‘Richie Tozier’ or a recurring New Kids on the Block joke, It boasted some sharp, funny dialogue. For the sequel, Muschietti and Dauberman doubled-down on the jokes, often to the detriment of the scares. Yes, It Chapter Two has some standout jumps and gross-out moments. But they’re fewer and further between this time, too often feeling disconnected from one another. And while much of the humour works, it feels misplaced in several scenes, There are a few too many instances where you’ll find yourself laughing when you should be jumping out of your seat. Childhood bully, Henry Bowers, for instance, is more comical than menacing.
Bill Hader Breaks Out With a Stellar Performance
Aside from Finn Wolfhard, It’s “Losers Club” cast largely unknown actors to great success. In fact, the onscreen chemistry among the young actors was one of the major strengths of the 2017 movie. For It Chapter Two, New Line Cinema spared no expense, assembling an all-star cast to round out the adult ‘Losers’. As expected, James McAvoy (Glass) and Jessica Chastain are excellent, though Dauberman’s screenplay gives Chastain less to do. Isaiah Mustafa, playing an adult Mike Hanlon, impresses amongst his more famous co-stars. And Bill Skarsgård is as creepy as ever as Pennywise.
For It Chapter Two, New Line Cinema spared no expense, assembling an all-star cast to round out the adult ‘Losers’.
When the credits finish rolling, however, it’s Bill Hader’s performance that you’ll likely remember. The Saturday Night Live alum is equal parts hilarious and touching as the adult Richie Tozier. Alongside Hader, James Ransone (Sinister, Family Blood) equally impresses with his jittery portrayal of Eddie Kasbrak. Both actors bring an incredible nervous energy to It Chapter Two. And Dauberman’s screenplay tweaks Richie’s character that inevitably gives the sequel its most powerful emotional arc.
It Chapter Two an Underwhelming, Overlong Follow-Up
It Chapter Two isn’t a bad movie. But at nearly three hours long, Muschietti’s follow-up is too long, unfocused, and tonally inconsistent. Pennywise is still scary. And Bill Hader and James Ransone are absolute highlights. But the scares are outnumbered by the laughs, and more than once you’re likely to laugh when you should be scared. Though there’s still plenty to like, you’re likely to be less enthusiastic about this Derry class reunion.