‘It Chapter 2’ closes the book on Pennywise

Jessica Chastain in It Chapter 2

“Wa-ha, wa-ha, wa-ha; that’s It, folks!” – Doug Walker

Beyond all odds, It 2017 beat the remake curse to be well-received commercially and critically. Coming now to conclude the tale is It Chapter 2, but the air in this balloon has leaked out.

Twenty-seven years have passed and Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) is back terrorizing Derry. Mike (Chosen Jacobs in flashbacks, Isaiah Mustafa in the present), who remained there, remembers the promise the Losers Club made as children and decides to take action. He reaches out to Bill (Jaeden Martell, James McAvoy), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer, James Ransone), Richie (Finn Wolfhard, Bill Hader), Bev (Sophia Lillis, Jessica Chastain), Stan (Wyatt Oleff, Andy Bean), and Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jay Ryan) to get them to come back and stop It once more.

Now that the story is complete, is the whole endeavor better than the 1990 effort? Mostly no, but in some important places, yes. Making two parts with considerable running times gives ample breathing room to the events and by comparison makes the other feel rushed. The movie-level budget ensures that the production design and effects are on point. The ghouls, monsters, and gore terrify, and the environments feel just as threatening. 

But the things it does worse are rather big. One huge blunder is with Bill’s wife Audra. This character who is supposed to have a larger role and play a part in the climax is reduced to a brief cameo at the beginning. What makes matters worse is that cast in the role here is Jess Weixler. A phenomenal actress who has been seriously undervalued (see Teeth, The Big Bad Swim, Sister Cities, Free SamplesThe Lie…), she would have been a major asset to the third act. Such a massive waste of character and talent is just unforgivable.

Flaws from the preceding film carry over as well. The change in time periods, in my view, was the wrong move. So much of what’s in the story does not seamlessly translate 30 years forward, not to mention the commentary on those specific eras is now lost. A few pretty big characterizations and plot digressions were things that the filmmakers pulled from their rear ends. And while Skarsgård does creepy well, he’s nowhere near as good as Tim Curry.

McAvoy comes the closest in matching his role’s previous actor, evoking Richard Thomas at nearly every turn (though I do miss the ponytail). The rest are decent fits – although they do correspond well to their younger counterparts in this film – but won’t make you forget the prior versions. That said, Hader does shine surprisingly strong and shows promise for more dramatic roles.

After this and Pet Semarary, the time has come to give the unadapted stories some attention. Doctor Sleep is due soon and Lisey’s Story is on the way, but where’s From a Buick 8 or Joyland? As for Pennywise and the Losers Club, let’s just hope it will be a bit more than 27 years (at the very least) before we see them again, if we absolutely have to.

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