“It: Chapter Two” Can’t Justify Its Horrifically Long Running Time


I was one of the few not to go over the moon for It. That first installment, which ran two hours and fifteen minutes, felt incredibly padded out to me. Here, with It: Chapter Two, it’s over a half hour longer and all of the issues there are doubled. Monotonous, overlong, and just not nearly scary enough, this is a would be horror epic that only succeeds when it’s actually setting the stage for its story. The first act is actually pretty solid, but with about two hours to go after that, things go very much downhill. Opening this week, it’ll undoubtedly make a ton of money. However, it’s just not a very good movie.

Picking up 27 years after the last one, the members of the Losers Club have grown up into troubled adults and moved far away from the town of Derry (with one exception), until the return of “IT” in the form of Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgård) spurs them to come back. Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) stayed in town and makes the phone call to reunite the group, though Stanley Uris (Andy Bean) opts not to come. However, Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy), Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain), Richie Tozier (Bill Hader), Jay Ryan (Ben Hanscom), and Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone) do. Initially, only Mike remembers what happened when they were kids, but soon it all comes rushing back. From there, they each encounter Pennywise again, as well as their old bully Henry Bowers (Teach Grant), until they decide they need to defeat “IT” once and for all. Andy Muschietti returns to direct, while Gary Dauberman again adapts Stephen King’s novel. Checco Varese is behind the camera handling the cinematography, while the score is by Benjamin Wallfisch. Supporting players consist of the child versions of the Losers in Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs, Sophia Lillis, Jaeden Martell, Wyatt Oleff, Jeremy Ray Taylor, and Finn Wolfhard, while newcomers include Peter Bogdanovich, Xavier Dolan, Jess Weixler, and more.

The film fails for two huge reasons, besides the smaller one of the visual effects being rather middling and overused here. One is the length, which is most noticeable during an hour and change worth of watching each character interact with Pennywise during the second act. It gets quickly repetitive and just keeps going, losing any and all momentum (not to mention the subplot about the grown up bully Bowers from the first one. He’s absolutely pointless). Then, there’s Pennywise itself (no pun intended), which doesn’t seem to follow any set rules and needlessly toys with the Losers. When a villain is as powerful as this, there isn’t much fun to be had, since you know Pennywise could kill everyone if not for the script preventing it. Horror works best when you give yourself over to the creative forces, and here, that decidedly does not happen.

It: Chapter Two is oddly at its best when just letting actors like Bill Hader have a good time with the ridiculous nature of it all. Hader is largely terrific, while Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy are solid as well. As for Bill Skarsgård, he’s not quite as effective as Pennywise this time, but that’s due to some dodgy CGI interference and the aforementioned lack of consistent rules. He’s less terrifying and more just another movie monster, which is a shame. Moreover, there’s no consistency to be found anywhere. Hader knows this whole thing is batshit crazy, but everyone else is pretending it’s a prestige flick, which it definitely is not.

There may not be a perfect way to adapt King’s novel, but this approach from Muschietti had the potential to work. Giving equal weight to the child and adult versions of the characters should have invested us in the tale. Unfortunately, the languid pacing of both installments makes it a tough sit. In the first part, the character development didn’t work as well as it does here, but it’s stretched out so much that it’s quickly a case of diminishing returns. At the very least, no one decided this needed to be three chapters. The rumored six hour plus cut of this sequel alone is tough enough to stomach.

This weekend, those of you who made the first one a record breaking horror flick at the box office will have another opportunity to play with Pennywise when It: Chapter Two opens. In fact, you likely already know if you’re seeing this one or not. It’s not a film that I’m even close to recommending, but I understand why it’s going to be a hit. Just know that your expectations should really be in check here. Some movies deserve to be almost three hours long. Not many do. I can safely say that It: Chapter Two is not one of those select few.

It: Chapter Two scares its way into theaters on Friday…

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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