‘It 2’ is far from realizing the ambitions of the original
Perhaps it is the filmmakers’ self-awareness, frustration with the source material, or blinding self-confidence, but there is a running gag in “It Chapter Two” in which successful author Bill Denbrough (played by James McAvoy) is confronted by fans who make it a point to tell him his books are great, but his endings suck.
Again, I was not privy to the minds of those who crafted the screen version’s pages of “It 2,” but after sitting through three hours of this unhinged, meandering conclusion to the wickedly good first film, they perhaps should not have drawn too much attention to this fact.
Denbrough is one of the “Losers” we met two years ago in the sleepy town of Derry, Maine, as they battled the sewer-dwelling clown Pennywise. Another 28 years have now passed, and the original clan of misfits has now grown into variously successful adults, but they are summoned back after yet another string of child vanishings in their hometown.
Mike (played by Isaiah Mustafa) is the only one of the original crew who never left town, and he takes it upon himself to call his childhood pals, including: Richie (played by Bill Hader), now a successful comedian; Ben (played by Jay Ryan), who shed his chuddy child fat to become a hunky architect; Eddie (played by James Ransone), a hyperventilating risk assessment analyst; Beverly (played by Jessica Chastain) who, despite her designing success, cannot break out of the cycle of abuse; and Stan (played by Andy Bean), who is still gripped by childhood fears despite his happy home life.
None of them is able to immediately recall their traumatic childhood battle when they first return, but as the memories slowly (and I do mean slooooowly) start to creep back, they realize the perilous journey ahead of them.
While the first film was undeniably creepy and featured a skilled balance of scares and chuckles, it was far from the classic that it was aiming to become. It did, however, give hope that perhaps a film adaptation of one of King’s best-written-but-complicated books could be pulled off. After 90 minutes, that hope fades. After 140 minutes, that hope decomposes. After 170 minutes, it’s ash.
Director Anthony Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman never seem to be able to balance the book’s skillful juggling of tones: earthly horror, supernatural suspense and jokey comedy clumsily bounce into one another as the story meanders without cohesion. So it’s not uncommon to have characters drop a thuddingly obvious wiseass comment in the midst of mounting terror, which undercuts any tension that was established.
There are also elaborately staged set pieces that flutter from reality into the phantasmagorical (featuring some surprisingly cheap-looking effects) at a dime drop, with little payoff. The actors inhabiting the now-grown kids from the first film are independently talented, but they really have no chemistry with one another, and as Daubeman’s screen version presents them, they’re just not as interesting as when they were kids.