It’ll do

Sequel wraps up Stephen King’s story, just not very well

Starring Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain and Bill Skarsgard. Directed by Andy Muschietti. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas. Rated R.
Rated 2.0

It Chapter Two provides a needed conclusion to a saga started with It (2017). If you saw chapter one, you have to watch this one to get the full story. Unfortunately, you also get a decline in quality.

If you look at the two films as one long two-chapter adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 novel, the overall experience is still cool. However, if you look at this sequel as a standalone, it’s a bit of a mess. Actually, it’s a big mess—an editing room fatality.

The first movie focused on the Losers Club when they were children, concluding with the group of friends seemingly defeating Pennywise the clown. This one picks up 27 years later, with the adult Losers—played by Bill Hader (Richie), Jessica Chastain (Beverly) and James McAvoy (Bill), among others—called back to their hometown where the evil has returned and a rematch with the morphing clown is in order. That’s it for the plot. The adults split up, suffer some individual horrors at the hands of Pennywise (played again by the always frightening Bill Skarsgard), then wind up back together for the finale.

After a solid start, the performers just run from set piece to set piece, setting the table for some CGI scares mixed with the occasional practical effects. (The old lady freezing during her tea chat with Beverly is perhaps the scariest/funniest moment in the movie and required no software.)

A central problem in this movie is that the kid actors who starred in the first film, who also play a large part in this one, have grown significantly since filming of the first chapter wrapped. While there have been some nice advancements in digital effects, the kid scenes in this film (a mixture of newly filmed and flashbacks) are not a shining example of the technology. Often shown in the dark, the kids look very odd with their digitally altered, disproportionate faces. And, in some cases, their digitally de-aged voices make them sound like chipmunks.

There’s also been a lot of whining about this film’s running time, as it clocks in at 2 hours and 48 minutes. However, I’d like to submit the notion that director Andy Muschietti should’ve taken three films to tell this story. Even at nearly three hours, this movie comes off as rushed and haphazard. Supposedly, the original cut for Chapter Two was four hours long. Perhaps an hour will be restored for a home-video release, which might fill in some gaps.

Despite all this, in a strange way, I’m happy the film exists. Hader rules here as Richie in the same way Finn Wolfhard ruled the character in the first one. He’s funny, he’s aces at looking scared, and he can handle the heavy drama. He and Skarsgard make good chunks of this movie worth watching. Surprisingly, McAvoy seems a little lost in the role of grown-up Bill, while Chastain isn’t really given much to work with during her screen time. The film also closes out King’s story in much better fashion than the spider sequence at the end of the 1990 TV miniseries.

It Chapter Two drags the overall grade for both movies together to somewhere around a B-minus.