Director: Andy Muschietti | Screenwriter: Gary Dauberman | Cast: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård | Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures | Running Time: 169 min. | MPAA Rating: R
The final chapter of It comes to a close with a runtime close to that of Avengers: Endgame. But while that superhero ensemble was able to reap an extra bit of character and introspection amid its crowded cast of superhero action, this supernatural horror with less than half the cast delivers half the amount of emotion. So many events, themes, and scares are overstuffed into this film that rarely any of it is given breathing room. The Loser’s Club victory, in this regard, comes about less like the heroes saving the day in the first film and more like an aged team bringing home an expected good ending.
27 years have passed since the first chapter and we now find ourselves in a modern-day Derry. According to the timeline, it’s once more time for the supernatural clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) to rise from his sewer haven and target the fearful and weak of the community. The Loser’s Club, the underdog ensemble of kids that beat the clown all those years ago, have left behind Derry and their childhood. But it’s clear not just from Pennywise’s return but from their very lives that there are unresolved issues still lying dormant in Derry. Among their problems, Bill (James McAvoy) still hasn’t gotten over the death of his younger brother and Beverly (Jessica Chastain) finds her daddy issues have carried into her current and dangerous relationships. They don’t just have to confront Pennywise once and for all but themselves as well.
It would seem like nearly three hours would be more than enough time to wrap all this up and yet it never feels like everything is there. This film just simply wants to do too much. The opening suggests that there might be a bigger story of how Pennywise chooses his targets, such as brutalized homosexuals, but it proves to be little more than fodder to show off how serious the killer is with his mission to munch. The biggest eater of time is the second act which reserves singular scenes for each of our grownup characters to all essentially do the same thing. They visit a spot in Derry alone, have a flashback with an altered kid cast, get in a good scare from Pennywise’s cavalcade of horror monsters, and then flee with another ingredient of the MacGuffin pie. And on and on these scenes go, to the point that any scares they have to offer grow stale with nothing to break them up.
There’s so little time with forced in surrealness that there’s no time to understand Pennywise’s true power or address the love triangle between Bill, Beverly, and a now-skinny Ben (Jay Ryan). They’re present but they really don’t resonate very well when forced to be bookended by a non-stop track of scares that grow old by the minute. There’s so little time to appreciate anything that the astute Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) can only give us the shortened version of the Pennywise origin story, seeming as though it was acted out with puppets in the weird flashbacks.
The comedy has also been punched up but in more of a post-production, make-this-funnier kind of funny. Several scenes feature forced in dialogue or odd music choices to make the film funnier and it’s depressingly jarring at times to watch. This dubbed in humor also dampens the general message of the film about trying to conquer true fears as well as the unreal. How can we fully appreciate the Losers besting Pennywise when their grand showdown is paused temporarily for a Scooby-Doo style door gag? It’s hard enough to be engaged with the gang fighting a clown spider monster to get over their fears.
It: Chapter 2 is the unfortunate slog of trying to adapt a weighty novel and feeling the unnecessary girth on screen. The film seems so focused on hitting all the bullet points of the book’s plot that even the addition of probably one of my favorite Stephen King cameo in a while just feels ho-hum. This movie either needs to trim the fat events or add some meat to its bones because most of that magic from the first film, if not gone, is certainly lacking. It’s a mess of good ideas and great scenes that never reach that goal of being the towering closure to the stellar 2017 predecessor.