Pennywise, played by Bill Skarsgard, is back to scare us all in the second chapter of the IT revival. However, what few issues the first chapter had are sadly only multiplied or made worse in this installment of the series. With a run time of almost three hours, director Andy Muschietti’s closing piece in the series is weighed down by uneven pacing and new side stories– making the conclusion of the lovable Losers Club feel bloated.
There is a running joke throughout the film where a grown-up Bill Denbrough (now played by James McAvoy) is a famous author who is seemingly is unable to write a favorable ending for any of his books. Unfortunately, this seems to become a self-fulfilling prophecy for the movie itself. Muschietti’s decision to include more facets from the book, such as the Ritual of Chud, only seem to bog the film down. Whereas the CGI often appears so bad that it turns what are supposed to be intense horrifying scenes into downright comical clips straight from an Evil Dead film. The famous scene in the Chinese restaurant is one example of this; cutting from poor CGI to awful jump-scare reactions by the cast make this beloved scene laughable. Normally comparing a director’s style to that of Sam Rami would invoke praise, but in this case, it does quite the opposite. While the start of the film does its best to ingratiate the audience with the adult versions of the Loser’s club, it fails to establish the same emotional connection the audience had with the younger crew from the first film. The few flashbacks that are in the film bring back the child actors but only make you miss them even more.
Another glaring misstep in the film is how criminally underused James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain are. Having two actors of their caliber in the film would have you hoping to see intense and emotional scenes where their acting skills could shine. However, James McAvoy’s character, Bill, is set off on a weird side plot involving a small boy from the town that reminds him of his younger brother Georgie. Jessica Chastain’s character Bev, on the other hand, seems only to exist to play the designated “scream queen” of the film. The adult version of Beverly is a shell of her younger, more badass self, growing up to marry an abusive, controlling man just like her father. And that’s where Jay Ryan’s character Ben comes in– the once chubby new kid who falls in love with Beverly is now a handsome but lonely architect. Despite 27 years since the first chapter, Ben is still hopelessly in love with Beverly. She, however, cannot remember that it was Ben who wrote to her that beautiful poem since the group’s memories being tampered with after leaving the town of Derry.
James Ransone, who plays Eddie Kaspbrak, acts as the comic relief, nervously overreacting to the events of the film and often chickening out when it comes to accomplishing their mission. Andy Bean, who plays Stanley Uris, has a small but powerful role in the film, often inspiring the Losers to push forward and defeat the mad clown.
Rounding out the rest of the Losers Club are Mike Hanlon, played by Isaiah Mustafa, and Richie Tozier, played by Bill Hader, who are the shining stars of the film. Isaiah Mustafa becomes the narrator of the film. If you’re wondering why you seem to know him but can’t place it, it’s because you might know Isaiah as the “Old Spice Guy” from the commercials. At the start of the film, Mike begins to round up the club once Pennywise awakes from his slumber 27 years later and starts killing again. While Bill’s character may have been the leader in the first film, Mike takes up the charge and is the one who keeps everyone focused on their promise to kill Pennywise. Unlike the other characters, Mike never leaves Derry and remembers everything that happened, and this puts him on edge- making him desperate to kill the clown terrorizing his town. Mustafa plays Mike’s desperation to kill Pennywise and end things once and for all. Toeing the line between the passionate keeper of their promise and possibly a man who has been driven mad by his constant fear of the killer clown’s return, Mustafa stands out in the crowd of mundane performances.
Although Mustafa puts on a good performance, it is Bill Hader who steals the show. His performance is elevated by the fact that of all the Losers, he is the only one with an overall story arc. We first see him struggling with the events of his past as his memories return to him. Then as he deals internally with the struggle of being his true self after Pennywise reveals that he knows Richie’s deepest darkest secret. Hader provides not only comedic laughs but also heartfelt moments of sincerity as he embraces who he really his by the end of the film.
“Chapter Two” lives in the shadow of the first film, as do the adult actors who are outshone by their younger counterparts. Poor pacing and an over-bloated story hold the film back from greatness. The subpar CGI turns what should be terrifying scenes into awkwardly comedic parodies of what they could have been. Director Andy Muschietti’s closing installment doesn’t quite hit the mark on what should have been an epic conclusion to a cult classic. 7/10 – Good