Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate."

It Chapter Two (2019)

A scene from 'It Chapter Two' based on Stephen King's 1986 bestseller. 

The Losers Club is reunited to once again take on Pennywise the evil clown in Andy Muschietti’s conclusion to 2017’s “It,” which passed “The Exorcist” and “The Sixth Sense” to become the highest-grossing horror film of all time.

“It Chapter Two” features two casts, the kids from the first chapter and Hollywood heavyweights James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain leading the pack of adult actors for the grown-up versions. Bill Hader takes the MVP award and the special effects are first-rate, but it doesn’t take long for monotony to set in as the film gets predictable and convoluted by repeatedly jumping from the present to the past.

At times IC2 feels like an extended cut of the first film because of the numerous flashbacks. A good introduction with highlights from the First Chapter would have given Muscietti’s follow-up better flow and energy. As it stands the almost 3-hour film feels like your watching both chapters that have been combined into one big saga.

The special effects by Atomic Arts and Method Studios look sensational. There’s even a couple of scenes that pay tribute to Carpenters “The Thing” and Kubrick’s “The Shining.” In this case, however, the effects are too much of a good thing like a DJ in a club that keeps hitting the airhorn button every few minutes.

Every grotesque variation of Pennywise begins to look the same. Quickly the film becomes repetitive and when you're talking about a 3-hour production even the action sequences feel tiresome. IC2 gets an adrenaline boost in the last 30-minutes during the final confrontation between Pennywise and the Losers Club.

Based on Stephen King’s 1986 1,100-page bestseller, IC2 picks up where the first film left off. It’s 1989 in Derry, Maine. Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård), an evil entity that feasts on the children of Derry every 27 years has just been defeated by a group of kids calling themselves The Losers Club. They take a blood oath to return to Derry in 27 years if “It” resurfaces again.

Fast Forward to 2016. The film opens at a Carnival in Derry where a gay couple becomes victim to a horrific homophobic attack. Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the only member of the Losers who decide to stay in Derry hears about the crime on his police scanner and heads down to the scene just in time to witness Pennywise eating the heart of one of the victims. It’s been 27 years and so Mike calls up the old gang instructing them to come back home.

Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy), the group's leader who lost his younger brother Georgie to Pennywise, is now a writer married to famous actress Audra Phillips (Jess Weixler). His loud-mouthed best friend Richie Tozier (Bill Hader) is now a stand-up comedian living in LA, while the group’s only female member Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain), a Chicago fashion designer, went from being abused by her father as a teenager into an abusive marriage as an adult.

New Zealand actor Jay Ryan plays the adult Ben Hanscom who went from being an overweight bullied kid to a physically fit handsome architect. The rest of the Losers include hypochondriac Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone), now a risk assessor for an insurance company, and Stanley Uris (Andy Bean) who doesn’t feel he can face Pennywise one more time.

Bill Hader’s performance fills the levity quota as the former SNL member gets plenty of laughs. McAvoy and Chastain are a pleasure to watch and the special effects which are culled from the Evil Dead playbook are top-notch. There are lots of things to like about “It Chapter Two” including the cameos by Peter Bogdanovich and Stephen King plus Bill Skarsgård is the best thing to happen to horror since Robert Englund.

The negatives include too many flashbacks, overworked special effects, and the film’s 3-hour running time. Muschietti’s 2017 film succeeded on two levels. First, it was truly frightening and second, it felt like a warm coming-of-age drama. IC2 overwhelms the viewer with its state-of-the-art production. The frights are gone and the scenes that should evoke an emotional response fall flat. The final letdown is the ending. It feels silly after such an extravagant display of excess.

(2 ½ stars)

Now showing at Cinemark 12 

Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society.  He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate.

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