Pennywise bends over backwards, and so does the cast, but Andy Muschietti can’t strike balance and find the rhythm in a dragged-out story aimed at “revamping” the much more successful predecessor.
Box office goldmines usually spawn at least one more incarnation, which is usually an ugly duckling in comparison with the original material. After robbing a bank, and sweeping the competition off their feet with over $ 120 million on its opening weekend, “It” by Andy Muschietti had a blazing green light for a sequel (not to mention it was planned to be divided into two parts from the start). And let me throw in the fact that most critics expected it to easily reach the top of 2019 when it comes to horrors.
The recipe for success, judging from Muschietti’s “It Chapter Two”, was to double down on everything.
The film is ridiculously long (over 2,5h!), has a stellar cast that includes Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and Bill Hader, mixes two timelines, lets Pennywise get even more brutal, and – on top of that all – it mixes horror, drama and comedy.
But when it comes to “It Chapter Two”, more doesn’t necessarily mean better.
The script, written by Gary Dauberman (a director of “Annabelle Comes Home And Should Stay There Goddamnit” and writer of “It: That First Chapter That Was Much Better”), gathers the Losers Club after 27 years, just when Pennywise decides to strike Derry one more time.
Before they reunite though, director Andy Muschietti opens the sequel with an ill-conceived scene of a gay couple’s super-graphic battery, which leads to a tragic death of one of them (that happens to be an auteur indie director Xavier Dolan, who plays the soon-to-be-deceased homosexual).
While the guy’s drowning, out of the blue arrives Pennywise, just in time to creepily finish the act started by a group of Derry-local simpletons. Balloons, blood, jump scare – everything’s in order.
An opening like that heralds a deeply-rooted issue with “It Chapter Two”, or to be more precise – its antagonist.
Pennywise’s not in the story centre, nor does he have enough time to shine. He morphs himself into caricatures of monsters that haunt the Losers, but these monsters are crafted in the same vibe as equally bleak “Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark”. Pennywise simply drowns in the mud consisting of all the loose threads, flashbacks and heavy-landing jokes.
That’s frustrating to the extent you’ll lose the perception of “It Chapter Two” as a horror.
For no specific reason, Dauberman’s script devises all kinds of silly scenes and nobody-needed-them bits that imitate a drama about adults who all forgot their past. Essentially that’s what happens a lot in this film. The kid actors, known well from “It”, show up frequently, explaining things as if their own movie didn’t exist or Muschietti & Dauberman duo just forgot about it.
Either way, the flashbacks halt the film’s momentum, which is also visible when the stellar ensemble is looked at. The cast gives their best, but none of them steals the show because… there ain’t no show to steal. None of the dramatic storylines really catches the wind here, simply because these characters are interesting only as a conglomerate. Dauberman’s idle efforts, to extract more from these characters than just them being the Losers, smells like desperation.
All I could hear was the faint whisper of we’ve got no idea how to sell this concept once again guys. But hey, I paid for the ticket as well, so the joke is on me.
There are virtues that help alleviate the pain in “It Chapter Two”
I found the overall cinematographic quality very eye-pleasing, and so were the casting choices. The gargantuan (for a horror movie) budget is obviously there, seen in saturated colours, well-framed shots and atmospheric lighting. Furthermore, the cast squeezes the last juices despite these shallow sketches they’re given to chew for almost three hours.
“It Chapter Two” feels like a ride with an insecure driver, who lacks confidence and bravado to let his car flow. Instead, he accelerates and stops in a rush. Muschietti too, finds this whole trip difficult to handle. There’s no denying that “It Chapter Two” will find its audience, mostly among the ardent fans of its predecessor and Stephen King’s readers. But I honestly can’t imagine anybody falling in love with this iconic novel after seeing such derivative movie.
It Chapter Two (2019)
Dir. Andy Muschietti
Hate Grade: 5/10
Overall judgment: Dragged-over, with a muddled narrative that wastes the talents included, Andy Muschietti’s big-studio “It: Chapter 2” falls short in comparison with its predecessor.
Read a full ranking of horror movies in 2019 here.