Review: It Chapter Two

Isaiah Mustafa, Bill Hader, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain and Jay Ryan in “It Chapter Two.”
Isaiah Mustafa, Bill Hader, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain and Jay Ryan in “It Chapter Two.”

Twenty-seven years after the events of “It,” the Losers’ Club must return to the town of Derry to defeat Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), a strabismic evil clown who feeds on children.

“It Chapter Two” has its cake and eats it too. The first film, shifted forward from the 1950s setting of Stephen King’s novel, surfed a wave of Atari-era nostalgia prompted by Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” itself also directly inspired by the novel. At the same time, “It” is a warning against sentimentality for the past — a reminder that the America of yesteryear was, by many measures, a crueler and uglier place. It’s a bit like the “Jurassic World” films, which sermonize against corporate greed amidst lavish product placement for Mercedes, Samsung, Margaritaville et al.

This is a film bearing all the signs of tight producorial control: scares, usually of the loud and computer-generated variety, are dispensed every four-to-six minutes to keep the audience from pulling out their phones. Nonetheless, delightfully charismatic performances from Skarsgård and the younger and elder Losers’ Club members lend “It Chapter Two” a chemistry that no amount of mechanical exposition can ruin. Director Andy Muschietti, try as he might, also can’t quite control the extreme messiness of King’s novel — there’s simply no smooth way to execute a scene in which characters are attacked by killer fortune cookies in a Chinese restaurant. The film’s idiosyncratic charm belongs to the cast and to King. In the hands of an auteur filmmaker rather than a workman, perhaps this material could have been great.

3/5