There’s a lot packed in “It: Chapter Two,” but then it runs close to three hours so it stands to reason.
Director Andy Muschietti isn’t just reminding you of the characters from “Chapter One,” he’s also introducing their adult counterparts and tossing in a few extras.
It’s a lot to consider – too much, frankly, for a franchise that had a great first entry.
In “Chapter One,” we got to know the kids who called themselves the “Losers Club.”
In “Chapter Two,” we’re constantly playing catch-up and trying to remember who’s who.
In the sequel, one of the gang tells the others Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), that vile clown who haunted them as children, is back and ready for more havoc. Since they agreed to reassemble when necessary, the gang returns, 27 years later, complete with new baggage.
Because we’ve got to match the kid to the adult, “Chapter Two” spends most of its time telling each back story. Adult Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) still lives in Derry and has an unnerving amount of research about the evil that shrouds the community. Considering he, too, could have moved, there’s a lot of unexplained anxiety that fuels the story. The others – equally Derry averse – hesitate but show.
Richie (Bill Hader) is now a standup comedian; Eddie (James Ransone) is a risk analyst, Beverly (Jessica Chastain) is a designer in an abusive relationship, Ben (Jay Ryan), the chubby one, is now a hunk. They reassemble at a Chinese restaurant and, immediately, begin to see where Muschietti is headed. Using way too many special effects, he reveals they’re not just dealing with childhood fears. The big money spent on effects shows, but it’s unnecessary. “It” worked better when it dealt with universal fears.
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While Chastain seems miscast (her younger version practically looks like Amy Adams’ sibling), she gets plenty of screen time as the sole female. She rekindles a relationship with Ben, visits her childhood home and has knowledge that others don’t. She knows how they all die, which could have cut this by an hour had she just done some sharing.
Hader is the best adult actor, largely because he’s able to ease tension with good one-liners. He also has a secret that’s revealed that figures into the film’s final minutes.
But when Pennywise finally gets them to his “lair,” there’s too much wizardly junk to sort out before Derry’s future is secure.
“It: Chapter Two” uses a certain four-letter word more than it needs to and retraces too many tracks for a sequel’s own good.
Because it seems so unwieldy, this might have been a better subject for a television miniseries. There, those individual stories could have been mined during individual episodes. Here, they’re roadblocks on a one-way street.
Skarsgard, a real breakout after the first film, looks like he could have handled his part in less than a week. So much of it is dressed up with effects, he’s never really in play with the losers.
"Chapter Three," no doubt, belongs to him.
A victim of excess? That’s “It: Chapter Two.” It didn’t need half of what Muschietti gives it. It should have moved solely on the bonds of friendship.