IT: CHAPTER TWO Stars: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Skarsgård, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, James Ransone, Jay Ryan, Andy Bean, Jeremy Ray Taylor Rating: R Connor’s take: Not as pristine as the first film, but overall enjoyable and ghoulishly entertaining thanks to cast.
Not quite reaching the impressive, frightening heights of the 2017 blockbuster, “IT: Chapter Two” is ultimately still an enjoyable, faithful Stephen King adaptation.
Defeated by the Losers’ Club, the evil clown Pennywise returns 27 years later to terrorize the town of Derry, Maine. Now adults, the childhood friends have gone separate ways. But when people start disappearing, Mike Hanlon calls the others in the group back home for a final stand. Emotionally damaged, the Losers must unite and conquer their darkest fears to destroy the inter-dimensional, shape-shifting Pennywise.
Given the amount of exposition the film has to relay to the viewer and the pressure of nailing a satisfying finale, “IT: Chapter Two” can’t escape a meandering three-hour run time and the simple fact an evil clown chasing adults isn’t as compelling as its pursuit of terrified children.
While it is not the film’s fault the source material is not quite as engaging, director Andy Muschietti and the creative team get the pacing wrong. There’s a lot to unpack here, but it could have been done in two-and-a-half hours. The first act does fly by, but the middle of the film is almost a replay of the first film, with constant flashbacks to the kids causing the film to drag.
Thankfully, the grownup Losers who are chased by Pennywise are all perfectly cast. James McAvoy is a wonderfully brooding Bill Denbrough, and Jessica Chastain is a gloomy, tragedy-ridden Beverly Marsh. But it’s Bill Hader who steals the entire show.
Hader’s grown-up version of Ritchie is a welcome comic relief to the film, yet allows Hader to show a welcome dramatic side. With Richie’s turmoil of his uneasy childhood and his secrets, Hader is fantastic at acting out it all.
Also sensational, again, is Bill Skarsgard. His Pennywise continues to be a disturbing, creepy creature. From the different ranges in his ghostly voice to the eerie design, Skarsgard is as unnerving as ever — although, some audience members might be taken aback at how sparingly Pennywise is used in the film.
The threat of Pennywise comes in all his various forms, including a spider, an elderly woman and a leper. This allows Muschietti to give audiences various visual flourishes with the film. And given the supernatural finale act, Muschietti is suitable at providing otherworldly, bizarre visuals. It’s not a surprise the film studio, Warner Bros., is wanting to keep him for “The Flash.”
Ultimately, adapting one of Stephen King’s longest books was always going to be challenging. While the first film is the superior half, “IT: Chapter Two” is still emotionally compelling and faithful to the source material, with a terrifying main antagonist keeping this follow-up afloat.