Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Screenplay by: Gary Dauberman
Based on: “It” by Stephen King
Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransom, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgard
Life finds an interesting way to connect past events to the present. Yes, in a way I am referring to Andy Muschietti’s “It Chapter Two,” which sees grown up versions of the Losers Club returning to Derry as children start mysteriously disappearing. But it also reminds me of my years in middle school, when Stephen King’s novels were popular with my peers; and despite my best efforts, I could not get the librarian to let me check out “It” without my parents’ permission.
Many moons later, I find myself watching films based on King’s novels, and liking them.
There’s more to it than that. One of the things that I respect the most about the various adaptations of King’s novels is the characters and the way they are compelled to face their own inner demons. The returning duo of Andy Muchietti and “It” scribe Gary Dauberman ensures that those characterizations remained richly intact, especially given the fact that the events are set 27 years later.
Most of the Losers Club have moved on and Muschietti spends much of the first act reacquainting us with these characters in their adult states. The adult cast is first rate, with James McAvoy playing Bill Denbrough. I appreciated McAvoy’s tactile approach to the role, the center of a great deal of humor. Jessica Chastain is a natural choice for Beverly Marsh, having to stand up for herself after enduring years’ of abuse. Jay Ryan plays Ben Hanscom who is successful as an adult, and the one character who changed the most between the adult and child versions.
One of the interesting juxtapositions of “It Chapter Two,” are the overly numerous flashbacks to the younger versions of these characters, mostly as a way to carry the adult’s stories forward. None of the characters’ has as strong of a transition as Richie Tozier, played as an adult by Bill Hader. As strong of a comedian as Hader is, a fact that they build upon in the first act, the trauma and the drama the lies underneath a comedian is omnipresent in Hader’s performance.
Rounding out the main ensemble are Isaiah Mustafa plays Mike Hanlon, the one, lone member of the Losers Club who remains behind in Derry, James Ransone as Eddie Kaspbrak and Andy Bean as Stanley Uris.
Dauberman does an exceptional job of bringing the club members back together. There is a lot of nervous humor to keep us on the edge of our seats and when they are together, they are a formidable group against Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Skarsgard still terrifies even me, and the scares populate this film rather than punctuate it, though they are effective
What wasn’t necessarily effective was the length of the film, which gives way to several challenges within, namely pacing. While it was interesting to see the flashbacks and for some of the characters, rather effective, they become a distraction to the overall story. Within that distraction though, I still felt more invested in the teenaged characters’ stories.
Where “It” felt like a take on “Stand by Me,” another King staple, “It Chapter Two” feels like a take on “The Shining” with respect to the characters and their narrative arcs. “It Chapter Two’s” length and excessive flashbacks keep it from being a stronger film.
2.75 out of 4