Two years ago, Andy Muschietti’s feature film version of Stephen King’s classic doorstop novel, ‘It’, blew past expectations to become the highest grossing horror film of all time. ‘It’ also became a solid representation of what has been a historically inconsistent genre – the Stephen King adaption (his works have been adapted over 80 times over the past 40 years to various degrees of critical and financial success). The movie was supported heavily by Warner Brothers, budgeted well for a horror adaptation, and featured winning performances from its young cast, giving it a respectable sheen that was embraced by audiences. The highly anticipated ‘Chapter Two’ looks to catapult off this success, and appears to have done so, at least financially. The final verdict is still out for this bloated second act, now driven by adult versions of the main cast, transported from the nostalgia driven past to a malaise-plagued present day.
Muschietti and crew attempt to stray from the meandering metaphysics of the source material’s second half, choosing to focus on individual character beats. Unfortunately, there’s not enough development for much of the ensemble beyond their childhood archetypes. Attempts to explore the effects that their youthful traumas have had on them into adulthood mainly fall flat, particularly with Jessica Chastain’s Bev and James McAvoy’s Bill. The grownup version of Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) serves only as the impetus for reuniting the Losers Club back in their hometown of Derry. He also provides what appears to be a deus ex machina, spouting some mumbo-jumbo nonsense tagging Pennywise as some kind of evil force (extra-dimensional, extra-terrestrial, whatever it is, it’s very poorly defined and lacks any sort of intrigue). The highlight of the performances is Bill Hader as adult Ritchie (a hilariously foulmouthed Finn Wolfhard from ‘Stranger Things’), navigating his penchant for using humor to mask his pain. Even his antics can’t salvage an inconsistent and incongruous narrative.
Where the first film succeeded as a coming of age tale peppered with unnerving sequences of the macabre, the second struggles. It tries to tie the whole piece together by separating the gang and having them retread a lot of the same ground as in the first go around, but much of this comes across as repetitive. This is all belied by ‘It: Chapter Two’s nearly three hour runtime in that it both needs the time to showcase all its characters, yet doesn’t do enough interesting things with them. There are some great standalone sequences and some truly frightening imagery, but without satisfying character arcs or any earned sense of catharsis, there’s not much to sink one’s teeth into, even for Pennywise the Clown . . .
Written By: Gary Dauberman
Directed By: Andy Muschietti
Running Time: 169 min.
* * (out of 4 stars) -OR- C