by Hans A. Carpenter
Release Date: September 6
Director: Andy Muschietti
Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, and Bill Hader
Mister Marquee Says: Meh
Twenty-seven years after the events of It, the evil Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) is back feasting on kids in Derry, Maine. Mike calls back the other members of the Loser’s Club to keep the promise they made when defeating Pennywise as kids, and they return to their home town to finish the evil clown once and for all.
This is a very faithful adaptation to the King novel, which is a double-edged sword. While it may please King fans, and his novel is held up as a classic, King also has absolutely no self control and a lot of his stories can go off the rails in a hurry. King has a tendency to throw every bonkers idea at the wall, and his works can be very self-indulgent and bloated.
The sequel to It is inferior in no small part because the adult portion of King’s story isn’t nearly as strong. For as many meta jokes about now-adult Bill (an obvious King stand-in) having an inability to craft a decent ending, we are still treated to some first-rate silliness holding down first-rate acting in the end. Am I saying It Chapter 2 is bad? Not at all. There’s plenty to like here. The core theme of facing trauma is strong, and the acting is fantastic. The adult cast members are pretty much dead-on grownup stand-ins for the kids from the previous entry. Bill Hader and James McAvoy give excellent, nuanced performances. Frustratingly, so does Bill Skarsgård, who, while playing the title character in a nearly three-hour movie, feels like he is barely in it. Then again, maybe it just feels that way because his screen time is so drenched in VFX. Seriously, this guy is horrifying as just a regular scary clown. His performance is the scary part of the first film. It’s enough. For all the bombast of the sequel, some of the magic was lost. Hollywood – bigger is not always better!
The script is kind of a mixed bag, also. On one hand, it’s very detailed in laying out these characters, how the trauma of battling It affected their lives, and what they must overcome to find happiness in adulthood. On the other, the pacing sometimes drags horribly, and the ritual stuff just plain stinks. There’s quite a bit of well-timed comedy. There’s also zero restraint on keeping the “haha” moments in the right time or place. In the end, this may be the most Stephen King adaptation of a Stephen King movie you can get. It’s over-long, bonkers, features zero self-restraint, and has a bunch of silliness for an ending. It also has excellent characters, a strong universe, and way too much good to be outweighed by the bad.