It Chapter Two, the sequel to 2017’s record-breaking screen adaptation of It, was always going to be a necessary evil: Stephen King’s book mandated that we’d see the Losers’ Club grown up, facing down stubborn old Pennywise one last (?) time, their collective childhood trauma providing a deep well for commentary on the weight of adulthood.
If only that happened in It Chapter Two.
DIRECTOR: Andy Muschetti
The Losers’ Club returns to face Pennywise, but it takes a long time to get there.
The foundational idea that the group of friends—Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Bill (James McAvoy), Richie (Bill Hader), Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), Ben (Jay Ryan), Eddie (James Ransone), and Stan (Andy Bean)—beat It together the first time, and now must do it together 27 years later, is quickly lost, and that’s where the film starts to gape. Called to Derry, Maine, by Mike after he sees signs that Pennywise is back, the others inexplicably agree to return to the town they fled and also don’t really remember. Well, all but one, and though this plot point is in the book, it feels a bit hastily dispatched.
We get a glimpse of what the gang is doing now: Richie is a comedian, Bill is a writer, Beverly runs a business with her abusive husband. They’re not given much to define them beyond these details, so when they’re sent on solo missions to find “artifacts” from adolescence to perform the “ritual” that will banish Pennywise, you start watching the alternate version in your head where they’re together and more interesting. Although, I’ve got to admit: Mike secretly microdosing Bill to make him trip out and see the ancient alien origin of Pennywise has got to be in the top five long-lost-friend reunion moments of all time!
The chemistry between Eddie and Richie is the most palpable, and they offer comedic relief amidst the increasingly predictable jumpscares and whiffy dialogue. There’s also a newly added detail about Richie’s sexuality, perhaps to tether it to an opening scene of homophobic brutality, though it’s never really explored beyond a childhood memory. The Losers’ memories aren’t all used for scares; we see how suppressing and sublimating ourselves can have a ripple effect on adulthood and the choices we make, and director Andy Muschetti does a good job spelling out how fear can follow us.
Meanwhile, in the background, Pennywise is still chomping on kids, though Bill Skarsgård’s unique take on the clown feel less present there, almost like he was in a different film. The biggest missed opportunity is the ending, which is even a running joke in the film. When the Losers finally corner Pennywise (roughly two-and-a-half hours into a nearly three-hour film), they find it’s really not that hard to sublimate him, but the scene is missing the catharsis and vitriol (and humor) of a clown showdown. Richie’s a comedian. I demand an alternate version where the Losers’ Club does a 10-minute roast of Pennywise.