“IT” has… stuff. [Mild spoilers.] You know if you want to see it, and if you want to see it, you’ll see it, and if you have reservations about seeing it, “IT Chapter Two,” or, “Grown Goonies in the Boonies,” is likely not for you.
Set in a visually undistinguished edition of Stephen King’s Maine-of-the-mind, the further deaths by misadventure of the make-it-up-as-you-go-along clown Pennywise should creep or repulse only the most devoted fans of the 2017 original or the most hidebound of coulrophobics. (Fan service and callbacks be thy curse.) Twenty-seven years after the doings of the $700 million worldwide-grossing adaptation of the early going of King’s 1,138-page skull-cracker, the Losers’ Club grown large, which once defeated the spectral murderer Pennywise, return to Derry in 2016 for a final bout. The opening hate-crime-turned-murder that signals the return of the nightmare creature ends with a skyful of red balloons about as haunting as a pile-on of emojis rising from an Instagram on someone’s birthday. (The preceding torture and death goes on a good while, and includes extremely crunchy sounds of bodily harm.)
Every character gets a raft of bollocks to do, both in younger as well as not-grown-wise older incarnations, stuffing and jam-packing a movie that’s nearly three hours long yet still feels rushed. Director Andy Muschietti has a fistful of magical time transitions between past and present on a single location that thrill. A huge misappropriation of Rob Bottin’s work from John Carpenter’s “The Thing“ zooms you right out of the movie. Subplots are reduced to painful suggestiveness, veering away from stating what’s behind lines like “You’ll always be my little girl, won’t you? ALWAYS?” A movie marquee alludes to a chapter of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” installment, a series whose entries are more tethered to commonplace fears than baroque-hearted yet emotionally inconsequential fantasia. (I’m good with “IT 2”’s influxes of wiggly-waggly crops of tiny blue hands.) The cast is large, obviously, the kids, the growns, and profiles and half-profiles are dutifully struck. (The adults include Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone and Andy Bean.) Bill Hader’s performance as a wisecracking stand-up thrills for its authenticity, in the role of a funny person who is measuredly manic while freaking out; not a comic playing a comic, but a splendid actor playing a true and distressed person. Hader’s entrance is memorable, too, a spray of gray-to-greasy puke directly toward the camera from an overhead catwalk. As a blah film director, Peter Bogdanovich descends from the heavens, or maybe an attic, in a crane into a soundstage-set scene, another moment that would have been brightened by vomit. (At least two other directors play small roles: Xavier Dolan and Stephen King.) The casual but non-lubricious swears, such as “You two look amazing! What the fuck happened to me?” make the movie feel much more Canadian than strictly necessary. 171m. Reviewed in IMAX. (Ray Pride)
“IT Chapter Two” is now playing.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published soon. Previews of the project are on Twitter and on Instagram as Ghost Signs Chicago. More photography on Instagram.