The cast of It Chapter Two.
It premiered in 2017 to critical acclaim and shocking success in the box office. Two years later and It Chapter Two had big clown shoes to fill. The film follows the Losers as Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) calls them back to Derry, Maine twenty seven years after defeating Pennywise in 1988. The Losers are now wiser, older and, in some cases, hotter. Once again facing a terrifying, shapeshifting clown, the group members are forced to rely on each other to stop Pennywise for good.
In many ways, It Chapter Two is a great sequel. Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise is still terrifying, and the all-star line-up wonderfully captures the adult versions of the Loser Club. Bill Hader and James Ransone shine as Richie and Eddy, respectively. Both flawlessly resume the playful banter between the characters and feel like a natural continuation of their younger counterparts. James McAvoy works well as leader Bill Denbrough, but never gets to truly flex his acting chops. Jessica Chastain and Jay Ryan pick up the one-sided romance of Beverly and Ben. Unfortunately Ryan struggles most to encapsulate his character’s former innocence, but he gives a great effort. Despite certain shortcomings, the cast shines when on screen together.
Perhaps the best scene of the movie is when the Losers Club reunite at a Chinese restaurant and reminisce about the times they had together. In a touching montage, the group inform each other about their lives after Derry, and slink back into their previous roles. It isn’t long before Pennywise shows up to remind them of the horrors they faced as children, but in the moments beforehand, it's wonderful to watch the Losers Club natural chemistry.
The biggest problem with It Chapter Two comes from insisting upon splitting up the cast for drawn out “token finding” scenes, in which characters are forced to recount their childhood experiences with It in order to retrieve a symbol of their lost innocence. Some of these scenes work well and add a new depth to the characters. Richie’s development, in particular, is masterfully staged and executed by director Andy Muschietti. For the most part, however, the tokens just rehash already known character points and fail to meaningfully advance the plot. These characters are at their best when they are playing off of each other, rather than individually wandering about Derry. These token-searching scenes significantly contribute to the film’s pacing issues. At three hours, It Chapter Two struggles to concisely adapt the insanity of Stephen King’s original story. Former childhood bully Henry Bowers (Teach Grant) is brought back to torment the Losers once again, but feels forgotten next to the more menacing Pennywise. Much of the backstory surrounding the characters’ lives outside of Derry is rightfully left aside in order to focus on the immediate plot. As with these more minor character details, Muschietti also ignores most of the more intergalactic dimensions of King’s novel.
Pennywise will continue to live in villainous infamy as he finds new and horrible ways to torture the town of Derry in the film. It’s careful manipulation and devouring of small children never fails to terrify, and Skarsgård does a fantastic job of portraying Pennywise as a true embodiment of evil. While some may say the comedic relief injected by Hader is unnecessary, it works well as a way to counterbalance the nefarious Pennywise.
It Chapter Two shines in its finale, as the Losers Club once again venture down into the sewers to take on It in a final battle. While not the most action-packed ending to a horror movie, the final scenes feature difficult good-byes to beloved characters and tremendous scares that remind us of why we feared Pennywise in the first place. While the movie isn’t quite as engaging as its predecessor, It Chapter Two is a solid sequel, and works hard to try to bring back the spirit that the original offered. While the new cast shines, they cannot rescue this overly long sequel. Muschietti tries to combine timelines to recapture the success of the first film, and adapted source material appear difficult to use for the silver screen. The unfortunate result does not capture the exhilarating frights of the first movie, nor the mind-bending satisfaction of Stephen King’s work.
Photo Credit: Warner Bros