“Everyone loves your books, but they hate the endings” is a running joke in the movie that pokes fun at criticism author Stephen King has often endured.  Whether it’s meant to be reassuring or an excuse is difficult to ascertain.  “IT Chapter Two” is competently made, but lacks the sincerity of the first. And the ending? Well…

The story picks up in 2016, twenty-seven years after the events of the first film.  Of the Losers, only Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) has remained in the cursed town of Derry.  After a brutal hate crime reawakens Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) Mike reaches out to each of his friends, reminding them of a blood pact they had made as children.  Should the evil entity every return, they promised to reunite to defeat it once again.  At first, none of the now successful Losers have any memories of their traumatic past, but as they come together, the past comes flooding back.  As children, they were trapped in the town, but as adults, they each need to make the choice to stay and fight together.  This new dynamic is the lifeblood of the film and works quite well due to the amazing casting.  It’s amazing how close each adult looks to their youthful counterpart.  With one exception there’s almost no need to even call them by name, as they are immediately recognizable.  Like their younger versions, the adults have compelling screen chemistry and charm.

“Chapter Two” seems to have all the ingredients in place to craft a perfect followup, but Andy Muschietti makes a number of choices that had me questioning if it was the same director for both films. In the novel, the entire narrative was interwoven between the two timelines.  “Chapter One” made a bold choice to focus entirely on the their character’s youth.  This set it apart from both the novel and mini-series adaptation and made it stand on its own, even though it drew a number of deserved comparisons to “Stand By Me.”  As a viewer, I had hoped this narrative choice would continue in “Chapter Two” with the focus being entirely on the adults.  Instead, after some lengthy introductions and breathless exposition, the majority of the story is split between both the adults and youths in an unending montage of flashbacks. Perhaps there’s no other way to handle the story since the main theme is “adults dealing with childhood trauma,” but it makes the two chapters feel lopsided.  Although all of the individual scenes with the younger characters are excellent, there were times the movie felt like a “clip show” at the end of a network sitcom series.  Other times, it felt like the story of “Chapter One” was being retconned by climatic sequences that we weren’t privy to before.  More than once I questioned what we were shown, “If that character actually experienced that, at that time, why wouldn’t they have mentioned it AT ALL to their friends at the time?”

Andy Muschietti also gets a bit carried away with his sweeping camera moves.  I love a great Speilberging tracking shot, but you aren’t paying homage to the master when every single shot is moving in an opposing direction.  Thankfully, it abruptly ends in the third act, but there were times I could feel the twinges of motion sickness kicking in. (*Our Press Screening was in IMAX) A reviewing of the first movie confirmed my suspicions. Muschietti was far more restrained, using sweeping shots when they were motivated, and locking the camera down in more tense moments.  He also seemed to have a much better handle on the humor in the first.  It never felt forced, and each laugh was usually at the expense of these kids acting like kids.  In the sequel, he doubles down on the humor, often at the expense of the story.  Bill Hader is naturally hilarious, but everything shouldn’t come to a screeching halt so they can squeeze in some of his ad-libbed lines.  An over-reliance on CGI dampens most of the scares, but in one gloriously effective shot using a practical creature, the moment is shattered when a few lines of a popular song are blared out for apparently no reason beyond fishing for laughs.

“IT Chapter Two” is far better than most sequels, particularly in the horror genre.  The danger of following up a great film is that it will inevitably be compared to its predecessor.  It’s biggest issues are that it stumbles in comparison to the first movie, has lost its sincerity in search of cheap laughs, and the bloated, drawn-out ending kinda sucks.

IT Chapter Two