Brandon Shillingford, Contributing Writer
In “It Chapter Two,” the sequel to 2017’s late-summer blockbuster “It,” the Losers’ Club returns to Derry, Maine, 27 years after the first film for a final showdown against Pennywise.
Seeing as “Chapter Two” is based on the second half of Stephen King’s 1986 novel of the same name, many were skeptical leading up to the film’s release. This part of the book is generally regarded as the weaker half in both the novel and its 1990 TV adaptation.
Writer-director Andy Muschietti and the team behind the film were dedicated to getting it right.
After seeing the star-studded cast they had assembled, featuring the likes of James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain and Bill Hader to portray the grown-up Losers’ Club, it looked like the sequel was headed in the right direction.
There’s no easy way to say this, because it’s clear that there was thought and effort put into this film. “Chapter Two” has its moments in which all of the pieces that worked so well in the first film click in similar ways. It can be funny, scary, heartbreaking, most of the leads give it their all and I could see how people could enjoy it. But man, I didn’t like “It Chapter Two.”
One of the reasons the first film worked so well was its marksman-like precision in finding a balance between scares and humor. Whenever it decided to slow down, the main kids were always there to provide a source of levity. In this, the adults have most of the screen time, but they aren’t able to match half of the kids’ charm and chemistry.
It’s so disappointing because this cast is incredible. You could fill a cruise ship with all the Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe nominees in this movie. They’re trying to give good performances but are given such bad material that their talent can’t save it.
Hader, who plays an older Richie, almost single-handedly saves parts of this film, though. There is a storyline in the book that’s hinted at, but never really explored, involving his character’s sexuality.
The creators decide to focus on it more, and it pays off, mostly. Hader is such a dynamic screen presence and uses this element to deliver some of the best work he’s ever done. He’s the emotional anchor of this film, and — please forgive the pun — he keeps it afloat.
Despite Hader’s sensational performance, the film’s unnecessarily long runtime and excruciatingly awful pacing are just too much to overcome.
“It Chapter Two” is nearly three hours long, and you feel every single minute. It’s not like horror films can’t be long; the first film ran for nearly two and a half hours. But in its sequel, the same exact narrative beats repeat themselves throughout the entire movie to the point where I honestly began falling asleep. Being able to engage your audience with either laughs or scares can make your two-hour film feel like a much shorter one, but it fails to do so entirely.
We already talked about the humor, but at its heart, “It Chapter Two” is a horror film that isn’t scary. While “Chapter One” did rely on jump scares, everything was relatively new and it was fun and surprising.
Now we know the formula, Pennywise jumps out of a box or a corner and sticks his tongue out — and it just doesn’t surprise me anymore. You know there’s a problem when clowns like Scarlett Johansson and Kevin Hart are scarier than a murderous omniscient evil clown spirit that wants to devour your fear.
In hindsight, I guess I’m the real clown because I should’ve seen this coming. Don’t get me wrong, I like the novel. But a lot like this film, there’s so much bloat and unnecessary stuff in it. In many ways, we should be thankful for what we’ve gotten and that Muschietti and the cast pulled off something that at least resembled a coherent product.
But there’s no looking past the fact that, despite a brilliant performance from Bill Hader, “It Chapter Two” is a disappointing conclusion to this horror duology.
Hey Losers – the final chapter of IT is almost here. Time to stop clowning around and get ready.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) September 4, 2019