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Review: It Chapter Two (2019)

It Chapter Two (2019)

Directed by: Andy Muschietti

Premise: A sequel to the 2017 film. Twenty-seven years after defeating the demonic clown Pennywise, the grown up members of the Losers Club reunite when the murders start up again.

What Works: It is a story about the way the traumas of childhood follow us into adulthood and are an inextricable part of who we are. Chapter Two focuses on the adult portion of the story as the members of the Losers Club return to their hometown to confront the creature that terrorized their youth. The casting of this film is very good with the adult actors matching the look and mannerisms of the child actors in the previous installment. Especially impressive are Bill Hader as Richie and James Ransone as Eddie. There is an almost uncanny resemblance between Hader and Ransone and young actors Finn Wolfhard and Jack Dylan Grazer. Richie and Eddie are constantly digging at each other but in a way that is affectionate. One of the most surprising qualities of It Chapter Two is how funny the movie is. A lot of that is due to Hader and Ransone and the comedy humanizes these characters. Humor is a way of dealing with stress and trauma and it often plays that way in this movie. The best parts of It Chapter Two are the friendships and the way these characters are bonded by a shared trauma. It was previously adapted as a 1990 television miniseries and the second half of the feature film is certainly an improvement from that version. It is better acted but also scarier than part two of the television miniseries and the filmmakers find ways to make the novel’s ending work for cinema. Chapter Two also makes good use of Pennywise, again played by Bill Skarsgård. Like the first film, the moviemakers don’t overuse or overexpose the villain and his presence permeates the rest of the picture.

What Doesn’t: Despite running nearly three hours in length, It Chapter Two often feels rushed especially in the opening. The film jerks the audience from one character to the next, reintroducing them as adults and establishing their home lives and careers. This is a prime example of the way in which both parts of It, but especially Chapter Two, simplify Stephen King’s novel. The book was quite complex in the way it dealt with the history of the town, the psychology of the characters, and the metaphysical nature of Pennywise. The source material is too much for one or even two feature films and so it’s entirely understandable that the filmmakers omit some of it. However, the simplification creates problems for the movie because it robs characters and events of their context. It Chapter Two introduces Beverly’s abusive husband and Bill’s movie star wife but these elements don’t figure into the rest of the story and their inclusion comes across as superfluous. Chapter Two is also more reliant on digital effects than its predecessor. As the set pieces get bigger they lose some of the visceral edge and a few moments are very comic book like. Chapter Two also includes new footage of the child actors from the first film. These scenes were shot two years after the first part and in order to preserve continuity the filmmakers digitally de-aged some of the young actors. In a few cases the technique is quite obvious and the children’s faces take on a plastic appearance.

Bottom Line: It Chapter Two, perhaps unavoidably, misses the more nuanced elements of Stephen King’s novel but the film is a satisfying conclusion. The movie is frightening but also has a wry sense of humor. What leaves a lasting impact isn’t really the scares or the jokes but rather the humanity of the characters and the quality of their friendship.

Episode: #766 (September 15, 2019)