To emulate the opening of every continuing television series of a certain
vintage: “Previously on It…”
In the small Maine town of Derry in 1989, seven kids who call themselves the
Losers Club band together to defeat Pennywise, an evil supernatural force that
primarily takes the form of a mincing clown and gobbles up small children like
so many tater tots. Now, what will happen in this week’s episode?
That’s a no-brainer to anyone who has ever heard of Stephen King — which means
everyone with even faint knowledge of the literary world. King’s massive (both
in length and in sales) book It was first made into a TV miniseries back in
1990, and while the 1986 novel didn’t need any help in placing Pennywise
squarely in the midst of pop culture prominence, having a visualization of the
demonic clown (brought to life in splendid fashion by Tim Curry) certainly
didn’t hurt in allowing many folks a shorthand in picturing it, err, It.
Another interpretation was offered when the theatrical version of
It struck box
office gold two Septembers ago. Taking a cue from the likes of
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,
Warner Bros. elected to turn King’s doorstop into a two-part movie event, with
the first chapter focusing exclusively on the exploits of the kiddie version of
the Losers Club. The result was a fairly engrossing endeavor in which the
segments that centered on the children and their intertwined relationships were
far more effective than the sequences in which they squared off against
Pennywise and his nasty tricks
Taking place 27 years later, It: Chapter Two opens with a needlessly prolonged
sequence focusing on a hate crime that was also in King’s novel albeit with one
key difference (perhaps as a nod to Trump’s AmeriKKKa, the homophobic
perpetrators here manage to get away with murder). That in turn leads to the
reappearance of Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), ready to again feed his blood lust
after nearly three decades away. The grown-up Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the only
Loser who remained in Derry precisely because he anticipated the creepy clown’s
return, gets in touch with his former childhood friends with a request for all
of them to return home to battle this evil anew.
Naturally, as in much popular fiction, all of them have become fabulously
wealthy – none are working as a janitor or a social worker or internet film reviewer.
Bill (James McAvoy) is an author and screenwriter; Beverly (Jessica Chastain) is
a fashion designer; Ben (Jay Ryan) is an architect; Richie (Bill Hader) is a
stand-up comedian; and Eddie (James Ransone) is a risk analyst. We don’t learn
the profession of Stanley (Andy Bean), but he lives in a fabulous house and he
and his wife are planning a vacation to Buenos Aires, so there’s that.
All but one of them make it back to Derry, and their return also triggers a
return of the memories they had long forgotten or otherwise suppressed. Mike
details how exactly they will kill Pennywise; first, though, they must all
confront their own fears, ones that snake back to their distant pasts.
from its leisurely 135-minute run time, It: Chapter Two is all but crippled by
its bloated 169-minute length. None of those extraneous minutes are employed in
the service of further character development or deep dives into the thematic
material on hand. Instead, these heroes were far more interesting and fleshed
out as children (despite the efforts of a fine cast), and the major issues — the
power of friendship; the necessity of reconciling with our pasts; the need to
stand up to our fears — remain at fortune-cookie level.
Speaking of fortune cookies, one of the first sequences that tips director
Andrew Muschietti’s hand finds scores of these Chinese-restaurant staples
bursting open and unleashing icky monsters that attack the sextet. The CGI
employment in this endless scene is a sign of what It: Chapter Two is ultimately
about: the ability to showcase reams of digital effects at the expense of
everything else. There’s a numbing repetition to these moments (one a direct
steal from a classic sequence found in John Carpenter’s The Thing), and
Muschietti’s attempts to frighten viewers fall dismally flat under the incessant
rush of so many wanna-be jump scares. When you’ve seen one toothy, slobbering
demon, you’ve seen ‘em all — the fact that one has spider legs while another
sports saggy breasts while yet another has a generous Gene-Simmons-in-KISS
tongue ultimately doesn’t make any difference. The overkill can be found at
every turn and around every corner, with each character’s subsequent encounter
with a grotesquerie adding nothing to the film but more minutes.
Stephen Sondheim may have once written to send in the clowns, but after the
unrelenting tedium of It: Chapter Two, the more logical urge is to send them