IT’s only been two years (though it feels longer) since the first half of the latest take on Stephen King’s “It” was released. “It Chapter Two” shifts the story ahead 27 years. King and returning director Andy Muschietti certainly aren’t clowning around when it comes to the time jump.
Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader and Isaiah Mustafa (aka the Old Spice Guy) join the cast as older versions of some of the “It” kids we met in Chapter One. The friends reunite in the small, stuck in its ways town of Derry, Maine. The evil Pennywise is back to his old tricks: unleashing terror and… red balloons. (I wonder how he and Winnie the Pooh would get along).
The members of “The Losers Club” (as they called themselves) want to stop Pennywise once and for all. But to do that they’ll need to confront painful memories from their past, and figure-out what’s real and what’s fantasy in the present.
As was the case with “It”, this sequel is all about facing ones fears. And throughout its 169-minutes, “It Chapter Two” hammers that theme home — over and over and over again. The inflated runtime is mainly due to an hour-long stretch in which the main characters go off on their own to find a relic from their childhood and confront versions of the menacing clown one-on-one. These sequences, not surprisingly, play like chapters in a book. That’s not a compliment.
This film is a true workout for the eyes. In some cases, you’re covering them to avoid having to watch truly disturbing, disgusting visuals. Not the least of these is Hader graphically vomiting, not once but twice. At other times you’re rolling your eyes. There are several clumsy, amateurish scenes. And the script lays the sentimentality on really thick. The sharing of memories of youth, friendship, kindness and togetherness is ultra-sappy. Plus, the constant inter-cutting of flashbacks of the kids and their current adult selves will have you questioning what you’re seeing at various points.
And don’t get me started on the ending, which may have been bold and insightful when King’s novel was published 33 years ago. But by today’s standards, it’s an overly simplistic and borderline bogus resolution.
“It Chapter Two” is well-shot and effectively creepy at times, with a couple of decent jolts. But I can’t say much of it is satisfying. If Muschietti and King were hoping to create one of the epic, defining cinematic horror/thriller sagas of our time — well, they let that opportunity float away.
Frankly, when all is said and done, “IT” ends up being much ado about nothing.