An overlong, structurally defunct horror movie that mistakes really, really bad shit happening to good, wholesome people for some form of demented realism. King’s opinion on suburbia’s underbelly is understandable but mostly cynical fantasy, at least the way it’s portrayed in the cinematic adaptations of his work. Attempts to comment on childhood trauma or the evils of mundanity are hollow at best, cartoonish at worst.
Perhaps the book goes into greater detail, but as shown here the story of the Losers Club and Pennywise is rife with annoying Peter Pan logic. Somehow all of them grow up to be uber-successful while magically forgetting much of what happened the longer they’re far from Derry. We never learn the source of Pennywise outside of some combination of Native American myth and vague alien happenings. Worse, Pennywise himself isn’t scary. There’s a nifty body horror scene featuring a man’s severed head sprouting spider legs, as well as a practical FX marvel in the form of a torrential blood bath. Otherwise this bloated sequel is rather toothless and often downright dull, riddled with lazy flashbacks and the musings of a wannabe provocateur. It’s a testament to the cast that It Chapter Two isn’t a complete debacle.
James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, James Ransone, and Bill Hader all inhabit these characters with the sort of ticks and tricks that really make you believe they were once their child forebears. Hader and Ransone are particular dead-ringers, right down to the mannerisms and creative energy they bring to the ensemble. Andy Muschietti’s direction obfuscates most of it, but there’s occasional emotional heft, especially when it comes to an efficient and effective arc for Ransone’s Eddie. And at the very least, they’re all an entertaining bunch when put in a room together. It Chapter Two almost achieves thematic excellence via some ruminations on the nature of time and aging, palpable material for a poignant ending to this story. Again, Muschietti and a script by Gary Dauberman (of the Conjuring franchise) can’t stick the landing, opting for cheesy theatrics and cornball narration.
Great casting and the resulting chemistry go a long way toward making this slog of a movie a semi-entertaining time inside an air-conditioned theater. The jump scares prompted plenty of laughter, but no actual jumping, screaming, or shivering to speak of, the result of no atmosphere or orchestrating. A great filmmaker can play the audience like an orchestra, and It Chapter Two never feels like you’re being played.