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‘It Chapter Two:’ Scary in Derry

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Director Andy Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman return for more mayhem with It Chapter Two, the second – and, one assumes, concluding – installment of the epic big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 bestseller.

Set 27 years after the events of the first film, the story reunites the grown-up members of the Losers Club, who return to their home-town of Derry to vanquish the supernatural clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) once and for all. Those telltale red balloons are floating skyward, a sure sign that Pennywise is back on the prowl.

Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, and Andy Bean play the adult Losers, while Sophia Lillis, Jaeden Martell, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Wyatt Oleff reprise their roles as the younger characters infrequent – and frequently unnecessary – flashbacks.

It Chapter Two hits the ground running, and it continues to run, and run, and run some more – ultimately adding up to a running time of 170 minutes. To cover absolutely everything in King’s novel tends to impede, rather than enhance, the film’s overall impact. This is not a film that would have suffered – and very possibly been improved, or at least sharpened – with more judicious editing. It’s not a bad film, and actually holds together better than the first, but getting to the point does not seem to be on the agenda.

That said, there is a palpably nightmarish atmosphere to the proceedings, which is to be expected, and the special effects on display are first-rate. But when one character remarks that it’s a bad idea to split up, it’s not an inaccurate observation. As each character faces his or her traumatic past, the other characters remain offscreen for lengthy periods of time. As a result, the better-known actors – Chastain, McAvoy and Hader – tend to fare better simply because they’re more recognizable. There’s also a funny cameo by King himself, in which he manages to keep a straight face – if just barely.

In addition, Pennywise’s appearances, although memorable, grow more sporadic as the narrative lumbers forward. By the time the final battle royale commences between Pennywise and the Losers Club deep beneath Derry, it can’t help but be a little anti-climactic and is more apt to be exhausted than exhilarated.

See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. © 2019, Mark Burger.

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