“IT Chapter Two” did not clown around

Pennywise is back for the reunion. Are you? 

The wait is over. The sequel to 2017’s highly popular and critically praised “IT”, based on the first half of Stephen King’s 1986 novel, has finally arrived—and it doesn’t disappoint. In fact, “IT Chapter Two” is a surprisingly thrilling, comedic and even heartfelt flick, with a fantastic cast and stellar performances to boot, even if it sacrifices some moments of emotional weight and drama in favor of silliness and the fantastical. Andrés Muschietti returns as director of the story that follows the reunion of the Loser’s Club in Derry, Maine, set twenty-seven years after the original film, as the gang of childhood friends take on the eponymous shapeshifting monster for the last time.

 If you enjoyed “IT” (2017), chances are, you’ll have fun with this one, too. If you’re a fan of the novel, I have been told that this sequel is incredibly faithful to the source material, despite criticisms that the first film deviated too much from King’s original writing. The film is a great companion piece to the original—and I say this having watched both movies back-to-back. 

It has the same remarkable genre ambiguity of “IT” from 2017 in that it deftly balances a healthy mix of terror, humor and character-driven drama. And, yes, it manages to throw in several 80’s references throughout, despite its modern-day setting, if you’re a lover of the nostalgic phase that the film industry seems to be caught in these days. 

The movie is also pretty long, with a runtime of about three hours, but it doesn’t feel too long, which I suspect is because it’s so entertaining. If anything, the extensive film leaves you wanting more. It feels like some elements or plotlines had to be left out for conciseness, which occasionally makes the plot seem hammy or rushed, but not so much that it ruins the story. Also, this movie has some amazing Easter eggs and references that will leave lovers of the novel with wide smiles. 

The cast of “IT Chapter Two” did a great job all-around, but James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain are stand-outs among the cast as adult Bill and Beverly respectively. You will be stunned at how freakishly similar the actors in the film resemble their childhood counterparts from two years ago. Of course, Bill Skarsgård once again delivers an unsettling and simultaneously playful portrayal of Pennywise that will make viewers both chuckle and shiver at the edge of their seats. At this point, Pennywise the Clown is probably Skarsgård’s most iconic role, and if he knows it, he certainly plays it up. 

But it’s longtime comedian Bill Hader’s emotional and oftentimes outright hilarious portrayal of Richie Tozier (played by Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard in the first film) who really steals every scene he’s in. Hader has been uproariously funny for years, but here, as in HBO’s “Barry”, he proves his dramatic ethos is a force to be reckoned with. If you’re a fan of Hader, the movie is worth seeing just for him. 

This is not to say that the film is perfect. Honestly, most of the gripes that I had with “IT Chapter Two” were characteristic of problems carried over from the first film that were never properly addressed, and not all of that is on the fault of the director or his crew. 

For one thing, this movie is drawing from very detailed source material, which is to say, an extremely long book. 

Because of that, some scenes, plotlines and thematic elements are regularly undercooked, especially during the first half, which takes a noticeable toll on some of the pacing of the film. Some things that happen in the film are totally contrived and unrealistic, but aren’t exactly unacceptable. The greatest sin of “IT Chapter Two” is one that is all-too common in the golden age of cinema—that every single movie tries to be a damn comedy. 

But wait, hold on. I already praised the movie for its humor and for the wonderful Bill Hader. Well, it is true that the jokes land most of the time. 

But sometimes, a dramatic moment or two would have tasted less sour if it had been left to marinate rather than immediately cut off by a poorly-timed quip or wacky one-liner. Especially when something otherwise considered serious is going on. I mean, there is a killer clown on the loose. (Yes, I know he isn’t really a clown. Give me a break).

Ultimately, audiences are going to walk out of “IT Chapter Two” having had a good time. And though not all reviews have been as generous towards this film as I have, I stand by my opinion: “IT Chapter Two” is a frightening, comedic and thoughtful character study with surprising emotional depth that is definitely on par with its predecessor, and might even make you shed a tear or two.

~William Cashwell, Staff Writer~

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