Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgard) is back - 27 years after the events of the first film - looking to prey on some more innocent victims in the town of Derry, Maine...but this overblown and messy follow-up to 2017's "It" movie is really no laughing matter.
Author and horror legend Stephen King is having fun in his old age. Now 71, the author is quite active on Twitter and is seeing his films not just adapted for the big and small screens, but he's starting to see remakes and sequels of said works flood the market...and his successful novels are still quite popular to boot. One of his most popular books was the 1986 novel "It," a book that went on to spawn a 1990 TV mini-series and a 1998 television series. With "It"s first film adaptation in 2017, "It" became the highest-grossing horror movie of all-time, topping 700 million at the box office (and up-ending "The Sixth Sense," which held that title for 18 years).
With the novel coming in at a whopping 1138 pages (King's longest novel, not counting a re-edited/re-released version of "The Stand"), it was an absolute no-brainer that "It" would demand a sequel...not just to properly cover the remainder of the book's content, but also because of the first film's overwhelming popularity. The "It" novel in fact, is often referred to as "two-books-in-one," with the adventure of the children taking up the first-half, and them as grown-ups covering the latter.
Talk to most fans of the book and they will admit that the first-half is the more critically-acclaimed...that's why all of the adaptation focus has centered on that portion of the book. But in "It: Chapter Two," we finally get to see the story of "The Losers Club" come to a conclusion.
As the story goes, the group reunites 27 years after they supposedly defeated Pennywise, and of the original squad, only Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa in this film, portrayed as a child by Chosen Jacobs) stayed around in Derry. The rest (with Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and Bill Hader leading the way) have all moved on, and it seems the further away they got from Derry, the less they remembered about those awful childhood memories. But they return, to try to put a stop to Pennywise, for good this time.
And you have to believe that the filmmakers behind this final chapter had the book-lovers in mind when they crafted this movie, because there is no other real explanation for the amount of bloat that is included, other than fan-service to those that loved the source material. A slimmer cut, for example, might have taken the first 40 minutes - in which Mike calls each of the other characters to deliver the horrifying news - and trimmed it down to a 5 or 10 minute montage. And just as the beginning starts as a slog, the ending (not to be spoiled here) goes on a good 20-minutes too long, fully overstaying its welcome.
Take this into consideration, and a just-under-two-hour version of "It: Chapter Two" might have been effective. But there are other problems as well...namely, the villian, Pennywise the Clown.
While Skarsgard is terrifying, the actual monster is not consistent and makes really no sense at all. So this beast returns every 27 years for what purpose? And it preys on kids, but also sometimes adults? And at other times, it disappears completely when adults are around? It feeds on your fear, but some characters still get eaten even though they don't seem all that afraid? Boiling it down, Pennywise really exists just to provide us with some thrills, some jumps and some random scares, playing on the audience's own universal fear of evil clowns. But the character itself is just implausible, which makes all of the actions of our heroes surrounding "It" implausible as well.
Bill Hader is the best thing to happen to the film, as he provides laughs and real acting chops...a talent he possesses that should surprise no one who is watching him in HBO's "Barry." The rest of the characters seem underwritten and under-cooked, and a few romantic connections between characters feel forced, at best.
It's not a sin to be a long movie...heck, some of my all-time favorite films have running times over 3 hours. It's what you do with that time that counts. "It: Chapter Two" is all bark and no bite, featuring a ridiculous antagonist that perfectly matches the preposterous universe it inhabits. There might be some things in here to like, especially if you claim to be a big Stephen King fan or even a big fan of the first film, but the critics were right: The second-half of this story just doesn't satisfy as much as the first-half does.
Run Time: 2 hours and 49 minutes.
Starring: Bill Skarsgard, Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Jaeden Martell, Wyatt Oleff, Jack Dylan Grazer, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor.
Based on the novel by Stephen King.
Directed by Andy Muschietti ("It," "Mama").
"IT: Chapter Two" opens everywhere on Friday, September 6th, 2019.
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