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‘It Chapter Two’ is a treat for fans of first chapter

| Thursday, September 12, 2019

Cristina Interiano | The Observer

In September 2017, New Line Cinema’s adaption of Stephen King’s “It” became the highest grossing horror film of all time. Two years later, the second half of King’s saga comes to the big screen and the result is … complicated.

As a continuation of the 2017 film, “It Chapter Two” succeeds as a gripping finale to the Losers Club’s battle against the evil entity known as It — a murderous shapeshifter often disguised as the gleefully maniacal Pennywise the Dancing Clown. The Losers’ last encounter with It appeared to end in a decisive victory, but 27 years later a string of murders in the small town of Derry, Maine forces the childhood friends to assemble one final time to end It’s reign of terror once and for all.

In many ways, “It Chapter Two” improves upon the foundation established in the first film. The sequel makes frequent use of intercutting flashbacks which strengthen the characterization of the child actors and help highlight the Losers’ vulnerabilities and fears. These flashbacks raise the emotional stakes for the characters when Pennywise targets their weaknesses as adults and also help connect the previously-established cast to their grown-up counterparts.

The casting of the adult losers is pitch-perfect as well. “Saturday Night Live” graduate Bill Hader shines in particular as the grown-up comedian Richie Tozier. Additionally, Bill Skarsgard’s stellar performance as Pennywise is both funnier and more frightening than his work in the previous film. Skarsgard is given much more room to breathe in this movie and it is clear he is having fun with the part and utilizing every line he is given to maximum effect. It will likely come as no surprise that his performance inspires the most suspenseful and engaging sequences in the entire film.

The other actors do a fine job as well, but the development of the adult characters suffers from the hefty narrative obligations required by King’s whopping 1,138 pages of text. This urgency to condense King’s original material makes certain scenes feel rushed even though the movie is nearly three hours long. In particular, the first scenes with the adult Losers whip by at such a rapid pace that even those familiar with King’s novel are likely to be disoriented and left scrambling to keep track of the humongous ensemble. Once the Losers actually get to Derry, the film maintains a decent pace; but with seven characters and a significant supporting cast, the film can’t help but feel sluggish, especially in the explosive final act.

Many of these pacing issues, however, are inevitable when one considers the sheer volume and structuring of King’s novel. The basic storyline is laid out in such a way that several characters are forced to retread previous arcs from the first movie albeit with better execution thanks to “It Chapter Two’s” superior use of the source material.

“It” fans will be pleased by this loyalty to the printed word, but general audiences are much more likely to lose patience with the excessive runtime — especially when the more complicated and fantastical elements of King’s story are introduced with little explanation or context for newcomers. Despite these issues, “It Chapter Two” does an admirable job of honoring King’s work and more or less successfully brings a novel many considered unadaptable to the big screen. Some ardent fans may even leave the theater wishing for more.

Title: “It Chapter Two”

Starring: Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain, Bill Skarsgard

Director: Andy Muschietti

If you like: Horror movies, Stephen King, “It”

Shamrocks: 3.5 out of 5

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