Twenty-seven years after their first run-in with the clown known as Pennywise, the Losers Club reunite back in their Maine hometown for another horrifying encounter in “It Chapter Two,” a messy closing chapter that wears out its welcome, starring Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader and Bill Skarsgard as the murderous clown.
Returning for a second time to adapt Stephen King’s celebrated novel is screenwriter Gary Dauberman, who runs into some pacing problems while employing the novel’s non-linear structure, and whose redundant scares grow increasingly ineffective. Also returning behind the lens is “It” director Andy Muschietti, who is at his directorial best when handling the friendship aspect of the Losers Club storyline, though he certainly earns a few legitimate frights in keeping with the first installment. But despite not quite living up to the first chapter, the addition of stars Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy bring some quality acting to the fore, and costars Bill Hader and James Ransone add some welcome comic relief as well.
Moving ahead twenty-seven years, the Losers Club have all grown up with varying degrees of success: Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy) is a best-selling novelist and screenwriter; Richie Tozier (Bill Hader) is an established comedian; Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain) owns a women’s fashion line; Stanley Uris (Andy Bean) is an accountant; Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone) is a risk assessor; Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan) is an architect; and Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) remains in their hometown of Derry, pouring over the city’s creepy history as an assistant librarian. However, despite the different directions their lives have taken, the group made a pact to reunite if Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), the demonic clown that the group thought they destroyed in their youth, ever resurfaced.
When Mike catches wind of more people disappearing around town, he calls the Losers Club back home. Shaken by the terrors of their youth, which are revisited and expanded upon in various flashback sequences to 1989, the losers realize their strength in numbers, and agree to return to their beleaguered hometown. Together, the group faces their biggest fears in hopes of finally destroying Pennywise once and for all.
With his closing chapter on the beloved Stephen King book, director Andy Muschietti had a tough task laid before him: satisfying fans of the novel while trying to top the near-universally praised first installment. And while Gary Dauberman’s script is a bit messy in its attempts to hopscotch between timeframes and still tell a coherent narrative, there are occasional flashes in this installment where Muschietti rivals his work in the original. But on the whole, despite some stylish camerawork by Checco Varese, some fast-paced editing by Jason Ballantinethat keeps moviegoers on edge, and some occasional humor that balances out the scares, the storyline never comes together in satisfying fashion. It also doesn’t help that the film feels every bit as long as its 169-minute running time.
As for the cast members, the returning young actors portraying the Losers in 1989 are just as entertaining the second time around, most notably Finn Wolfhardas Richie and Sophia Lillisas Beverly, and with the extended flashbacks, actually receive a good amount of screen time for audiences to enjoy. Portraying the adult versions of these characters, Bill Hader’s Richie is indisputably the most memorable of the bunch, though James Ransone comes in a very close second as risk assessor Eddie Kaspbrak. As for the crazy clown Pennywise, Bill Skarsgard once again gives a solidly scary, though heavily CGI accented performance that will succeed in spooking audiences, at least for a time.
“It Chapter Two” is not scary or satisfying enough to justify its extended running time.
By Lucas Mirabella
Rated R for disturbing violent content and bloody images throughout, pervasive language, and some crude sexual material.
Running Time: 169 minutes