IT CHAPTER TWO is coming on the heels of the beloved hit predecessor from 2017, switching things up as the story jumps years ahead to the return of Pennywise. Derry has been living in peace since the Losers' Club defeated the clown but his reign of terror has not been fully halted, prompting a return to the hometown for a story that mirrors the original film but also lacks a bit of its magic and focus.
Picking up right where IT left off, CHAPTER TWO reminds audiences of the kids we followed in the first movie and the pact they made to return to Derry should the small town need them to defeat the dancing clown. To no surprise for anyone familiar with this material, that pact is going to force them to come back to face their fears as their older selves. The casting of the grown-up versions of each character is very impressively done, with James McAvoy and Jay Ryan seeming to be the standouts, but that might be because their characters bear the most striking resemblance to their younger counterparts. Meanwhile, Bill Hader pours an impressive amount of heart into the film, despite being forced to try to add comedic relief endlessly, a task which lands most of the time.
Jessica Chastain's Beverly doesn't quite stand out to the extent Sophia Lillis' take on the character did in the first movie, possibly because Hader takes on so many of the film's biggest moments as the older version of Richie. The reunion of the group does an impressive job of pulling a scene from Stephen King's source material, crafting one of the film's scary early scenes, which still doesn't top its brutal opening moments. The opening of the film is sure to stir up some controversy as it adapts pages from the novel in terrifying form for the return of the clown in Derry. It's a quick reminder of how creative and scary King's novel remains.
Early on, IT CHAPTER TWO is an intense expansion to the Derry horrors. As the film progresses, the creative new scares carry the film through a sluggish second act which seems to be telling similar stories on a loop with slight variations. The lack of focus on a destination makes it clear the predecessor is a better movie. The first film might have also had the advantage of being the unique experience of following characters portrayed by impressive child actors. In fact, CHAPTER TWO gains a bit more heart when the kids are on screen and messages about growing up shine through, which is something it probably could have used a bit more of.
Every thread leads to a third act culminating a near three-hour movie with some spectacle that's hard to stay too invested in or get scared by when you might find yourself checking your watch. The final moments are clouded with CGI and flashing lights which, for some, might come with scares while, for others, it ends up losing a bit of the terror.
Fortunately, a surprising amount of heart is added to the finale, and the overall experience with this sequel warrants the price of admission. Certain story points should have been expanded upon rather than others being scattered across the second act but director Andy Muschietti and company have crafted something fans of the first will get a kick out of, even if they aren't as enamored with IT as they were in 2017.
Rating: 3 out of 5