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It Chapter Two - Pennywise and the Losers Club are Back!

It Chapter Two (hereafter simply referred two as “Chapter Two”) is directed by Andy Muschietti. The film stars James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Bill Skarsgard, Teach Grant, and Andy Bean. It’s a sequel to 2017’s It Chapter One, both films being adaptations of Stephen King’s novel of the same name.

27 years have passed since the Losers Club of youths came together in the Town of Derry to do battle with Pennywise the Clown. Everyone’s gone on and grown up, living their own lives, but when they get the phone calls strange things are afoot in Derry again, they return to town, taking up their oath to banish the creature, should It return. Will they be able to find the weakness of this ancient evil, destroy it once and for all, and return to their respective lives?

It’s no secret Stephen King books make for some of the most in-demand films out there, something that’s been true since Carrie came out in 1976. Hell, this year even started off with a second adaptation of Pet Sematary. It’s been nearly two years, and we now have the second half of the story which was begun in 2017’s It Chapter One, itself one of my favorite films of that year. The story had previously been adapted as a 1990 mini-series, but now that we have the “whole story,” how does the second chapter measure up?

Chapter Two has a jump forward of nearly three decades, so the main characters are now adults (although the child versions of the characters still appear in flashbacks). The movie’s acting is top-notch and it does create its share of genuinely chilling moments, though it’s held back by an overlong running time and far too many flashbacks, while neglecting to delve too deeply into the adult versions of the characters’ lives. Despite this, the end result is solid.

One of the reasons Chapter One worked so well is due to the fantastic casting of youth actors, most of whom were unfamiliar to this film fan, but worked so well together that the film worked as well as a coming-of-age story as it did a horror tale. The youth interactions were reminiscent of another film based on a Stephen King story, Stand By Me. I’m pleased to say the same is true of the newer film as well. Stand-out performances include James McAvoy as stuttering Bill, who’s gone on to become a famous author, Jessica Chastain as Beverly, finding herself in an abusive relationship, and comedian Bill Hader as (what else?) a comedian. It’s great casting, and the chemistry between the actors really does make the movie feel authentic. Their torment throughout the movie is genuine, only adding to the experience. If you’d removed the supernatural/horror element from the original movie, it would still work as a coming-of-age tale. The same is largely true of the sequel thanks to its brilliant casting and chemistry, as a reunion of old friends.

Of course, the movie needs a strong antagonist for our heroes to deal with, and we get that in the form of Bill Skarsgard reprising his role as Pennywise the Clown. It’s tough to straddle that line between being a comedic clown and a demonic killer entity without feeling like parody, but Skarsgard once again proves he’s ideal for this role.

Atmosphere is strong again thanks to the unique small town setting, distancing the production from the big city settings of many other similar movies. The town (both past and present) feels like an authentic slice of Americana, largely disappearing from our modern way of life. The Town of Derry practically feels like a character unto itself, which is part of the reason the story works so well.

Sadly, while still effective, the second installment doesn’t hold up quite as well as the first. The biggest problem here is the overlong running time. This movie alone is nearly three hours in length (by comparison, the original mini-series from 1990, told the whole story, both halves, in just over three hours). Far too much time is wasted on unnecessary flashbacks with the youths from the first film; we already learned everything we needed to know about them the first time around. Sporadic and occasional flashbacks would have worked well, but the filmmakers simply overdo it, and the result is a film that’s far too long as a result.

Likewise, the movie makes the mistake of not focusing enough on the characters’ adult lives and what they’ve been up to since leaving Derry. We essentially get one brief scene with each character’s “personal life” before they return to Derry and then never revisit these elements. Characters like the spouses of the former Losers feel like rushed afterthoughts. While I do prefer this film and its predecessor to the 1990 mini-series overall, I won’t deny that the earlier adaptation did a better job illustrating the “outside lives” of the characters beforehand. Obviously, some material needs to be cut for pacing reasons, but many of the choices are questionable in this regard.

Chapter Two doesn’t top Chapter One, though it’s cast well enough and features more of the same strong character development and chills which made the first installment effective. It’s also far too long, but Stephen King fans and those yearning for the second part of this story should be satisfied enough with the end result.

Rating: Three stars out of four.

DISCLAIMER: All images in this review are the property of their respective owners, including Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, Stephen King, Double Dream, Vertigo, and Ridgeback. For entertainment purposes only. All rights reserved.

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