The Losers’ Club kids from Derry, Maine have returned but so, too, has Pennywise, the malevolent clown who killed little Georgie Denbrough and so many other children 27 years before. IT CHAPTER TWO has floated into our cinemas, or perhaps I should that it has nearly crash landed because, at nearly three hours in length, it seems like the film’s iconic red balloon has sprung a bit of a leak this time out. Sure, it was always going to be a challenge to keep the second half of author Stephen King’s 1,138-page tome down to something that isn’t bum-breaking but that doesn’t seem to have been a concern of director Andy Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman. IT CHAPTER TWO has the same problem as IT. It’s just too darn long!
In case you haven’t read the book or perhaps you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the past two years with all the advance press the film has received, in IT CHAPTER TWO, the Losers, who are now 40-year-old adults, have been called back to Derry by Mike (Isaiah Mustafa/Chosen Jacobs), who has been living in the sleepy town all this time. Since the gang first battled the clown decades before, Mike’s been researching ancient native American rituals and, guess what, he’s come upon a ceremony that will rid Derry, and presumably everywhere else, of Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) once and for all but two things need to happen first: Pennywise needs to return to Derry and Mike needs all his old friends to help him. When people again start disappearing from the town, Mike calls up stuttering Bill (James McAvoy/Jaeden Martell), trash-talking Richie (Bill Hader/Finn Wolfhard), chubby lonely heart Ben (Jay Ryan/Jeremy Ray Taylor), hypochondriac mama’s boy Eddie (James Ransone/Jack Dylan Grazer), token Jew Stanley (Andy Bean/Wyatt Oleff) and abuse victim Beverly (Jessica Chastain/Sophia Lillis) but, interestingly, each of them has buried their teenage trauma so deep into their subconscious that they barely remember any of it. However, once they come back together, those memories come flooding back with a Pennywise-assisted vengeance. Now they must band together and face their deepest, darkest fears to kill Pennywise.
Wait! Didn’t they do just that in the first installment? Yes, they did and that’s another one of the problems with this film. Sure, the kids are now adults but not much has changed in 27 years. With the exception of one character who discovered the benefits of doing ab crunches in the interim, the kids haven’t changed at all. I would like to think that I’m not the same person I was when I was 13 years old but these people are all pretty much as we last saw them, just bigger. Fans of the story will argue that some emotional scars run so deep that time can never heal them. I won’t disagree with that but wouldn’t you think that at least one of them would have gone for therapy at some point? But our familiarity with these characters comes in handy and Muschietti makes it even easier for us to remember who’s who and what their fears are by flashing back and forth between 1989 and 2016. (He clearly shot a lot of this movie while he was filming IT because the young actors haven’t aged at all in the two years since we last saw them.)
Just as in the first film, there are so many characters and so many fears and phobias to prey on, it takes a while for Pennywise, and the audience by extension, to get through them all. To get rid of Pennywise, each adult must find something from their past that represents their greatest fear. While they search for those items, Pennywise appears in different forms to do his mojo on them. He’s not a very efficient killer though as they all manage to evade him, which leads them to the ultimate showdown, as before, in the network of sewers that runs underneath the town’s obligatory dilapidated mansion. You’d think the town would have demolished the eyesore by this point. In any case, a good 45 minutes could have been cut from the film with a bit of efficient writing and directing. There’s a running joke throughout the film about Bill’s latest book, which he is turning into a movie. Everyone has read it and likes it but they don’t like the ending. It wasn’t so much that I don’t like how the It saga ends. I’m just bothered that it takes so long to get there and we’ve seen so much of it before.
As far as the performances go though, all the adult actors do great work mimicking the behaviours and language of their childhood counterparts. There has been talk in recent years that the Academy for Motion Picture Arts & Sciences should create a new Oscar category for casting directors. If they do, then Rich Delia deserves a nomination because each adult actor here was an inspired choice. As for Skarsgård, he once again gives audiences an iconic performance that will haunt the dreams of coulrophobics for decades to come.
Just as I said with IT, even with its faults, IT CHAPTER TWO is still entertaining and a few notches better than most of the other horror films we see on the big screen. It’s worth seeing.
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, September 13th, 8:30 am HK time!
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