MOVIE: IT CHAPTER TWO
STARRING: JESSICA CHASTAIN; JAMES MCAVOY; BILL SKARSGARD; BILL HADER;
DIRECTED BY: ANDY MUSCHIETTI
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
It must be a sign that I am getting older, where I am blessed with a horror movie that has a runtime of two hours and forty-five minutes, and now my main complaint is how long it is. I'm just not as spry as I once was. I hate to be hung up on the long sit in a movie theater, and I typically follow Roger Ebert's school of thought that “no good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough.” That statement rings true for most films, which is why it is extremely difficult to dismiss Andy Muschietti's newest adventure with the Losers Club in It Chapter Two. It is 27-years later for the group of kids that defeated the evil clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard); they have all grown-up, they have forgotten their past, but the past does not just disappear. Working off the novel from horror-legend Stephen King, It Chapter Two is a valiant effort in making epic sized horror venture, going full circle on this story, including various scares along the way. The problem, however, is that Chapter Two does not exactly work as a single film. I found myself painfully checking my watch in this overlong event.
The kids have grown up, gotten away from their home in Derry, Maine, and each has escaped to a new life of their own. Beverley (Jessica Chastain) is a fashion designer, but instead of being abused by her father, she is now terrorized by her trash husband. Bill (James McAvoy) is an author, with his books turned into movies, with a witty Stephen King joke about how all his endings are bad. Richie (Bill Hader) used his craving for laughter by becoming a comedian, Eddie (James Ransone) now works in risk management, and Ben (Jay Ryan) has trimmed down and become an architect. Only Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) has stayed in Derry all this time and now he's calling the “Losers” back because It has come back to finish what It started.
With an extremely long cast and a book that fans demand sticks to the source material, it is easy to see why director Andy Muschietti was intent on keeping the long runtime. Sadly, this leads to a narrative that feels like one big run-on sentence. We have to re-introduce each character and then we have each character splitting up, looking for an item that represents them, or taking a stroll down memory lane of their past traumas. It's not a bad approach and the screenplay from Gary Dauberman has enough detail to keep us engaged. The issues are in the editing and a movie that is more interested in moving on to the next part, forcing us to never process any of the scares, or any of the action we see. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark did a better job dividing each segment while merging into one narrative thread. It Chapter Two is proof that this story works better as an episodic series.
Another big letdown in Chapter Two is how little we get Pennywise. Bill Skarsgard's performance in the first chapter and this installment, are impeccable, especially from the standpoint that this is an actor that is all in. With perfect makeup, creepy eye twitches, and a constantly drooling mouth, his Pennywise is what makes this all work. Yet, in Chapter Two he feels like an afterthought to the carnage that is wreaked upon the Losers Club. If Pennywise is the reason you go to see the It movies, you will leave disappointed.
The performances from Chastain, McAvoy, and especially Bill Hader all elevate the material in a film that has impeccable casting. Transition sequences from their younger child actor selves, to adulthood is one of the highlights of Chapter Two. I also have plenty of praise for the set pieces, such as a scene in a hall of mirrors that will shock the senses, a horrific sequence where Beverly takes a blood bath, and a crawling spider-like creature that will please anyone who loves John Carpenter's The Thing.
It Chapter Two is what I would call a valiant effort. I was tempted to even give it 2 ½ stars strictly on the fact that I value the time it takes to watch. At the least, director Andy Muschietti proves he's more than capable of making a film on a larger scale, but this is just not that movie. You will feel exhausted leaving the theater, watching a movie that has a mish mosh of various tones, and that becomes less scary with each scene. Maybe that's because the themes of Chapter Two is about going back to confront your past, but maybe we should have just let the clown stay down in the sewer? That would have been (Penny) wise.
Written by: Leo Brady