It: Chapter Two is a frightening killer clown movie with an abundance of laughs to counterbalance the grisly premise. A talented cast of likeable characters with plenty of chemistry is toned down by heavy-handed CGI designed to induce nightmares.
In 1989, a group of kids labeled “the Losers’ Club” was forced into an adventure in which they faced off against a monster clown name Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) and lived to tell the tale. The survivors vowed that they would return to their hometown of Derry, Maine, if the clown returned.
A generation later, he has.
As the only member of the gang to have stayed behind, Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) summons back the now-adult Losers’ Club to fight against carnival carnage.
Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy) has gone on to write horror-thriller novels with endings that his audiences hate. However, he’s done well for himself by marrying a movie star. His best friend, Richie “Trashmouth” Tozier has transformed his pain into professional stand-up comedy.
Fat kid-turned-hottie Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan) competes with his married friend Bill for the attention of their mutual childhood crush Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain), a woman stuck in a cycle of abuse after marrying a man too similar to her father.
The buildup toward the final showdown is uncharacteristically slow for this type of film. There’s not enough meat to justify a snail’s pace, and for most of the middle part of the film, the movie is just good enough to get by.
The idea of horror movies involving kid heroes completely unequipped for a dangerous journey is an iconic piece of pop culture. In the original It, this works to its own advantage as an origin story. However, in It: Chapter Two, the adults are so much more capable than the kid versions of themselves, that there’s less tension about their well-being. Equally unfortunate is that this is addressed by multiple flashbacks that reveal essential backstory; this once again pits the kid versions of themselves against the monster.
Director Andy Muschietti (It, Mama) returns to the franchise to lend his charming and terrifying talents. The actors are directed quite capably and It: Chapter Two could almost stand on its own as a reunion movie of sorts, even without the horror elements. An aspect of the film a bit troubling is the CGI, as there’s way too much meaningless fluff that’s neither scary nor adds to the well-constructed relationships between characters.
Gary Dauberman (It, The Nun), who adapted the original It movie, based on the lengthy Stephen King novel of the same name, returns to bring us a scattershot smattering of fright-inducing scenes. Relying mostly on modern jump scares with loud musical hits, there are a few genuinely frightening scenes with excellent set pieces interspersed throughout the film.
Small gripes aside, there’s enough to love about It: Chapter Two to satisfy anyone’s inner cynic. Although it may not win many awards, it delivers plenty of laughs, thrills, and chills, while tying together the epic saga of the Losers.