‘It: Chapter 2’ has less fear and more feelings

Brian Lang

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Bill Hader, James McAvoy, Jay Ryan, Jessica Chastain, and Isaiah Mustafa in It Chapter Two (2019)

After two years, the evil clown is back. The much-anticipated sequel to “It” is here with direction by Andy Muschietti and even though two years have passed for us, it’s been long 27 years for the Losers’ Club. Pennywise’s hibernation is finally over.

At the start of the film, most of the gang has moved away from Derry, and the further they get, the more they forget that traumatic summer in the ‘80s. It seems like all of the losers have fallen neatly, and maybe a little disappointedly, into place in middle age. 

Bill has become a screen-writer, although his movies can never quite stick the landing. Richie, naturally, is a stand-up comedian. Eddie is a risk-analyst for an insurance company. Bev has married well but unhappily into an abusive relationship.

Mike, however, has stayed behind in Derry and since he never left, his memories of Pennywise are still strong. He keeps a close eye on crime in the town, and just as predicted, Pennywise returns after 27 years to feed off of the fears of children once again. After the gang is reunited, it’s time for them to finally face their demons and put a stop to Pennywise once and for all. 

“It: Chapter 2” has a lot to live up to. Coming off of a wildly successful first installment is a lot of pressure for even the biggest blockbusters, and as Bill can remind you, it’s hard to get the ending right. 

While “It 2” has the same characters and storylines of the first film, it has a different soul entirely. For one thing, the motley gang of kids is grown up now, and while they still have rapid-fire banter sessions amongst themselves, they’ve lost those nostalgic “Stand By Me” vibes that made the first film special. 

The new crew of the Losers’ Club has a different goal than the first as they try to give “It: Chapter 2” a beating heart, despite an often aimless plot. Since the sequel leans into the emotional side of the characters more than the first film, there’s less joking and more pathos, something these actors are well suited to. 

Bill Hader leads the show as grown-up Richie. He consistently has the funniest things to say and keeps the film from ever becoming too serious. His chemistry with grown-up Eddie (played by James Ransone) perfectly matches the great performances by Finn Wolfhard and Jack Dylan Grazer in the first film.

Playing opposite Hader, James McAvoy does a wonderful job as the group’s de facto leader. He’s never afraid to jump all the way into the campiness of running from Pennywise, but he adds some depth to what could easily be a stock character.

And of course, Bill Skarsgard’s creepy performance as Pennywise can’t be overlooked. Maybe it’s because he did such a fantastic job the first time around, but Skarsgard hasn’t gotten the buzz he’s due for his second portrayal of Pennywise. His calculated performance hits all the right notes and his humanity still shines through underneath the layers of CGI. It’s not often that you find yourself wanting to see more of the demon clown, but Skarsgard’s acting is magnetic.

Despite all of these great elements, “It: Chapter 2” never seems to come together completely. With a nearly three hour runtime,  there’s plenty of repetition and multiple extended breaks between the action. While “It” had a nice mix of jump scares and psychological creepiness, “It: Chapter 2” focuses more on outright jump scares, which gets a little old after a while.

It feels like there was great potential for “It: Chapter 2” between the fantastic actors and what could have been a driven storyline, but instead, the plot wanders around without deciding what it wants to be. It still makes a fun movie, but it doesn’t quite recapture the magic of its predecessor. 

At the end of the day, even with its flaws, “It: Chapter 2” is still loads of fun. It’s the kind of movie that’s best to watch with a few friends and plenty of snacks while gripping the arms of your seat, waiting for the surprises. Hold on tight though, because Pennywise has a wild ride in store.