Even during 2019’s summer of rapidly diminishing returns, It: Chapter Two’s box-office take on the opening week was some $40 million less that the first film, a result that reflects that most of the best bits of the Stephen King novel had already been used up. Having separated the children and adult versions of the Losers club, the first It movie did a great job of conjuring up the golden version of childhood, but the second does a non-existent job of evoking the autumnal feel of the book’s adult section.
So we have the Losers Club again, now adults, but still struggling to free themselves from the shadow of Derry’s most notorious denizen, the killer clown Pennywise. Flashbacks to the kids menaced by Pennywise the dancing, child-eating, gay-baiting clown create nostalgia, but don’t move the narrative forward, and instead feel like inessential deleted scenes from the first film, diverting Andy Muschietti’s sequel from its purpose.
Other less-than-vital add-ons include cameos from master of horror Stephen King and, erm, the late Peter Bogdanovich, while many of the weaker scenes from King’s novel are transferred verbatim. A running gag about books with bad endings sets up a different finish from King’s original, and while this is better than the giant spider featured in the tv show, it’s not great either.
All this said, even with a drop-off in quality, It: Chapter Two is a more than watchable horror film, with some effective scares and just enough momentum to carry it over the finish line despite bland work from the leads. Only Bill Hader really finds a groove as the older version of Eddie; his self-loathing adds a dimension of horror that Pennywise, reduced here to a Freddy Kruger punchline-artist, struggles to find in this final instalment.