In the early fall of 2017, It surprised many by becoming the highest grossing horror movie of all time. The movie became a pop culture phenomenon and spawned a renewed interest in the works of Stephen King. Even before its box office success, though, a sequel was written in the cards as the movie itself announced in its own credits. My personal interest in It: Chapter Two was almost non-existent. I hadn’t even seen the first movie, but when it was announced that someone as talented as Jessica Chastain was joining the cast I couldn’t resist catching up. The first movie was an average movie that survived on a really good ensemble performance and an interesting but clichéd Spielbergian plot. It: Chapter Two is far from that. This sequel is an absolute disaster. You feel its almost three hour runtime (which had no reason on earth for being that long) as it stumbles through a ridiculous plot. The movie desperately tries to cling onto what made the first movie work, but all it ends up being is an overlong mess that has no idea what type of tone it wants to hit. This is a movie so bad that it makes it predecessor look even worse in hindsight.
It: Chapter Two picks up 27 years after the first chapter as an over-the-top homophobic attack (that is never brought up again so clearly its only purpose was shock value for the sake of shock value) makes it clear that Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard in a small role in turns of screentime despite the fact that this movie is almost three hours long and he is playing the titular character) is still alive. Mike (Isaiah Mustafa doing something way different from his most famous role as the Old Spice guy) is the only member of the Losers’ Club (the heroes of the first movie) still living in Derry and the first to realize the threat of Pennywise’s return so he begins to call the rest of the Losers’ Club to bring them back to Derry so they can defeat Pennywise once and for all.
Starting from that basic premise an hour of antics ensue where we are given ridiculous plot devices such as the characters not remembering their past because they stopped living in Derry or the Losers’ Club learning they have to do an ancient Indian ritual to defeat Pennywise. All of this adds at least an hour to the plot and these devices are never explained in a fashion that you can understand the clear rules of their role in the universe.
Additionally, you begin to realize that with such a diverse set of lead actors (you have movie stars like Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy but also comedic scene stealers like Bill Hader) the ensemble just doesn’t gel as well as the younger cast from the first movie. Some of that is by design (these characters haven’t interacted with each other since they were teenagers) but most of the time it just makes you wish the original cast was once again the main characters. The original cast does get screen time, but most of the time it just feels shoehorned in as if the creators wanted you to remember how great they were in the first movie rather than for plot reasons.
Just as all over the place is the tone. Pennywise is either played for laughs or for scares and it’s just a bizarre array of feelings that you are trying to make that character portray. Bill Hader is the best part about the movie as an older version of Richie, but all his best moments are comedic bits that feel completely out of place from what becomes before and after his scenes. The constant flow between horror and comedy just never is able to gel in a satisfying fashion.
It: Chapter Two is a disastrous conclusion to the It movie series.