“Let’s fucking kill this clown.”
With the release of IT CHAPTER TWO on Thursday and JOKER coming to theaters next month, along with the steady production of clown memes on social media, the Year of the Clown is reaching it’s pinnacle. The sequel to the 2017 blockbuster came roaring into theaters with a $100 million opening weekend box office projection, and will probably show no signs of slowing down. However, these gaudy box office numbers will not change the feeling of disappointment that overcame me as the ending credits rolled after a brutal 3 hours in the theater that found me contemplating walking out a few times. With more jokes than scares, and several of those jokes falling flat on their faces, IT CHAPTER TWO fails to recapture the magic of IT CHAPTER ONE, a film that I enjoyed very much.
The events that concluded IT CHAPTER ONE took place only halfway through Stephen King’s acclaimed novel, so it was inevitable that a sequel would be immediately in the works and the success of the first film only provided more motivation. IT CHAPTER ONE ended with a group of children known as The Losers Club temporarily defeating an ancient demonic entity known as It (commonly seen in the form of Pennywise the Clown) and making a blood pact to return to their hometown of Derry in 27 years. IT CHAPTER TWO begins with the return of It after 27 years, and The Losers Club, who are now adults, reuniting and attempting to destroy It and save Derry, for good this time. Sounds similar, right? It is.
IT CHAPTER TWO is a near carbon copy of the first film in its themes, motifs, and narrative structure, but it just seems to work better with kids than adults, probably due to the lack chemistry amongst the adult cast. Also, despite being perfectly casted looks-wise, most of the characters are not given a chance to display anything besides the archetypes that they retained from the first film, and, for the most part, remain two dimensional throughout the entirety of the film. Mike becomes an afterthought, Beverly is defined by her abuse, Ben is in love with Beverly, etc. One thing in particular that bothers me is how James McAvoy, who is completely invisible in his role as Bill, continues to drop dud after dud (GLASS, DARK PHOENIX, and now this) after putting together a promising string of great films (SPLIT, ATOMIC BLONDE, FILTH). To top it all off, the absolute worst crime of all was giving Bill Skarsgård, after an absolutely explosive perfomance as Pennywise the Clown in IT CHAPTER ONE, so very little screen time and material to work with that he is almost forgettable.
At 2 hours and 50 minutes, IT CHAPTER TWO is a very long film, especially for a horror film. This would not be a problem for a film that didn’t feel so bloated with empty calories, and it eventually grows tiresome, which is an incredible feat considering how rushed the first act feels. Add on the lack of scares and uninspired performances from the cast and you have a recipe for a snooze fest. I’m the type of person who likes to get his money’s worth, so I allow myself to be easily scared, yet I never felt a twinge of fear throughout this entire film. It does not help that almost every feeling of suspense is interrupted by a quirky quip from one of the characters and the CGI looks like it’s straight out of a low budget, late 2000s horror film. The filmmakers also made a massive mistake of including the two scariest parts of the entire movie in the trailer, so if you saw the trailer, you already know what’s coming.
However, James Ransone as Eddie and Bill Hader as Richie are the highlights of the film, with their dynamic together and general demeanors providing most of the laughs. This performance, paired with his brilliance in BARRY, will help Bill Hader finally ascend into superstardom and I am 100% here for it. The flashbacks to the young Losers Club were excessive and injected into the wrong moments at times, but the transitions were usually visually pleasing. One thing that the film does not lack is solid direction, with Andy Muschietti’s top notch cinematography and use of set pieces. Also, a great surprise cameo that will go over a lot of people’s heads.
I’ve never read Stephen King’s It, so I can’t comment on the accuracy of the film to the book. I do know that the book included the violently homophobic scene at the beginning of the film, and the film added more emphasis to a character’s sexuality than the book did. I felt like both of those plot points added nothing to the story, on top of being portrayed in an extremely uncomfortable or awkward fashion, and the story and run time could have benefited from not including them at all. But I digress. The film does a poor job of standing on it’s own and is really only worth watching if you want to know the events that followed IT CHAPTER ONE. If you haven’t seen IT CHAPTER ONE, or just don’t care about what happens next, and want to watch a movie that is just as funny, twice as thrilling, and half as long, watch READY OR NOT. All in all, IT CHAPTER TWO ain’t it, pun fully intended.
Final rating: ★★★