‘It Chapter 2’ Sinks Instead of Floating

ItChapterTwoTeaserTwo bad Stephen King adaptations in less than six months, wonder if Vegas had some sort of over/under on that…

“It Chapter Two” is the sequel to the (somewhat surprising) 2017 hit, and follows a group of adults who return to their hometown in order to again face off against a creature that terrorized them as children. James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone and Andy Bean star, while Bill Skarsgård returns as Pennywise the Dancing Clown and Andy Muschietti once again directs.

I enjoyed the first “It” a fair amount, but took issues with its repetitiveness and inability to commit to a genre. Instead of taking those (widely acknowledged) flaws to heart, Muschietti and his team double-down, resulting in a nearly three-hour horror film that, despite being based on an 1,100-page book, has little going on worth watching.

The cast here is solid, with Bill Hader being the standout you’ll hear about from anyone who sees the film. I don’t buy into the “it’s a serious Oscar role” that some folk have been trying to push, but he continues to be a late bloomer, and gives the film some heart and laughs, even though, much like the first installment, they sometimes come at the wrong time. James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain are fine, but almost feel like they know they could do these roles in their sleep. The only bad performance comes from James Ransone, who is playing an adult Jack Dylan Grazer. While Grazer was the best part of the first “It” Ransone is the weak link here, butchering comedic deliveries and over-acting on dramatic ones.

Bill Skarsgård again plays Pennywise and in the two or three scenes of true acting he has he does a great job. The issue is Pennywise is barely in this film despite being (1) the titular character, (2) on every poster and billboard, (3) what people pay to see. Half the time Skarsgård is involved with some sort of CGI which obviously limits the physical and emotional acting that made his 2017 performance such a treat. They do do a creepy glowing effect with Pennywise’s eyes this time around that I don’t think was prevalent in “Chapter 1,” so I that was a cool choice.

OK, let’s touch on the CGI. Some of it is fine, the effects are creepy or the monster design believable, however there are some shots in this film that would be mocked even in 2005. Whether it is little creatures crawling around a table or a charging clown, it just looks fake and over-the-top weird. Also, because teens age so quickly, they needed to digitally de-age the original kid actors from the first film and while most of the time it is seamless, there are a few shots where the skin has that “glowing” effect, and it’s things like this that continue to make me slightly nervous for Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman.”

The script by Gary Dauberman, who did a rewrite of Cary Fukunaga’s original draft for the first film, is really, truly not good. Whether it is awkward, out-of-place Michael Bay humor, cheesy and over-the-top chants or motivational lines, or a conflicting and under-baked approach to homosexuality among characters, there is no flow, rhyme or reason to much of anything. Not shocking coming from the screenwriter of “The Nun” or the “Annabelle” films, but still.

“It Chapter Two” is very disappointing and even if it didn’t make me angry while watching it, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a bad or very forgettable film. People who read the book will surely defend the inclusion of every scene in this 169-minute film, but all-too-often it feels like we just rinse and repeat the same sequence until we arrive at a numbing (and fittingly overlong) finale. It just relies on jump scares and cliche booming scary movie soundtracks too much; we are far removed from the naturally tense and uncomfortable opening of the first film (the opening of this sequel is also uncomfortable, but for different, worse reasons).

There have been worse Stephen King adaptations and films overall this year (“Pet Semetary” happens to own both titles) but “It Chapter Two,” in-part because it wastes a talented cast and a solid first film, as well as carries around a lingering sense of self-importance, is still a theater-going experience best left un-had.

Critic’s Rating: 4/10

Warner Bros.

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