IT: Chapter 2 is the follow up sequel to 2017's well received film where seven children fight an evil clown monster in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. IT was based on Stephen King's 1986 novel of the same name, and the 1990 television mini-series.
As far as King's books go, IT was the one that most resonated with me as a young reader with its highlighting of childhood fears wrapped up in a coming of age story. As a book, its story is massive, clocking in over 1,100 pages. The 1990's made-for-TV miniseries was cheesy in parts with soap opera level drama for flashbacks, but featured an unforgettable performance by Tim Curry as the monstrous "Pennywise the Dancing Clown."
2017's IT: Chapter 1 was well received critically and financially for the book's first half, with funhouse level scares, and likable child protagonists. The second installment, being set twenty-seven years later in current time, focuses on the rematch between the now adult "Loser's Club" and the weakened, but still hungry Pennywise.
After the opening scene's brutal beating of a couple, Loser's Club member Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) realizes that "It" has returned, and it's time to call the others home. After 27 years, none of the members are happy about this prospect, having built up a Derry intolerance since their time away.
IT: Chapter 2 struggles with similar issues from the second installment of 1990 mini series: The adults come back to fulfill their promise to kill the clown, and that's it. Pennywise toys with the adults, but outside of a few scenes of menace, allows them time to prepare before the inevitable confrontation.
What the second installment struggles with is its pacing. It takes a very long time for them to prepare, talk, get menaced, repeat to the point when the time comes to fight happens so quickly, it's jarring.
While there were some plot alterations in the first installment, the changes are far more numerous here. The removal of all mentions of Maturin the space turtle (look it up), and downplaying how utterly weird the book version of the Ritual of Chud is (one of King's more surreal descriptions) are understandable, but implementing recurring themes into the second film with no prior mention in the first will confuse some audience members.
While lost and changed elements in book-to film adaptations are commonplace for any story, the substitutes should provide value and necessity. One notable example is the removal of the additional external antagonists, losing a needed layer of menace for the heroes, though the now grown up bully Henry Bowers (Teach Grant) still returns, albeit in an underused manner.
It's also hard to believe that the stop-motion creature from the 1990 series would be the more preferable monster, but here we are.
What remains consistent, however, are the performances of the cast. Both adult and child versions of the Loser's Club put their effort into providing likable, believable character performances with great chemistry. Bill (James McAvoy), Beverly (Jessica Chastain), and Richie (Bill Hader), put in solid performances alongside the rest of the group. Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) returns to menace two eras of the characters, providing both a creepy and occasionally goofy presence.
IT: Chapter 2 finds its moments with an excellent, likable cast, some fun nods for fans, and a few creepy moments, but works to overcome its near three-hour runtime with inconsistent pacing, semi questionable CG effects, and a tone that can't decide if it wants to be funny or scary.
The true highlight of the film's experience came from Schulman's Movie Bowl Grille itself. During the scene where Mike calls the Losers to inform them that "It" is back, a costumed Pennywise entered the theater, balloons in hand, to glower menacingly at showgoers.
I'll take more of that, please.