It Chapter Two
Directed by Andy Muschietti
“It Chapter Two” picks up 27 years after the events of 2017’s “It.” But the problem is that it doesn’t stay there. As we’re reintroduced to the Losers Club, the new film takes us back to the events of the first film to remind us who’s who and in an attempt to make sure we know which adult actor is playing which of the characters we’ve previously seen as children. Which is to be expected and appreciated. But this is a film that spends almost as much time in the past as in the present.
A little reminiscing is one thing, but instead of simply being a sequel, “It Chapter Two” also feels like some kind of director’s cut of lost scenes from “It.” We relive many of the events of the first film from slightly different perspectives, which would be OK for context, but we’re also shown new and different scenes and events. That might be appealing at some level, but those additional scenes are things we’re told are significant and pivotal moments and experiences in the collective friendship. Which leaves you wondering why, if they were so important, didn’t we see them the first time?
At 2 hours and 49 minutes, this is a long film, more than half an hour longer than the first. Which seems unnecessary when so much of it is covering new old ground. As adults, most of the characters have blanked out their childhood memories, so they have to rediscover who they are and what they lived through, but we don’t. This might make sense in a sequel or reboot made 20 years later, but this is a sequel shot in conjunction with the first and released just 2 years later.
Part of the appeal of a film like this is also its biggest risk: Will people buy into the casting of the older characters as convincing adults versions of the same characters as kids, with the result being a bit of a mixed bag. James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain step in as Bill and Beverly, upping the star power and presumably also the cost, which is odd as they perform well but they’re not especially good fits and this doesn’t seem like the kind of film one watches to see a favorite actor. The better matches are Bill Hader as Richie, who comes closest to making the film worth watching, and Andy Bean as Stanley, albeit with limited screen time. And while it’s interesting to see the heavy kid grow up to be the buffest adult (Jay Ryan as Ben), in a society of abundant obesity, it makes you wonder why none of the skinny kids grew up to be fat.
In “It,” one of the themes was that for all of the horror of a child-eating monster clown in the neighborhood, the kids had other monsters in their lives, often the adults around them. In “It Chapter Two,” the kids have grown up and are now troubled adults themselves, largely fighting their own inner demons and insecurities aside from reconnecting with Pennywise (again played by Bill Skarsgård). But aside from uniform low body fat, they’re also all apparently living lives that make dropping everything and heading home to Maine surprisingly feasible. But then that’s a central premise of the story and perhaps it’s churlish to ponder the likelihood that they would all have the means and flexibility, or in some cases the desire, to walk away from whatever they had going on to answer a call from the one friend who stayed home (Mike, played by Isaiah Mustafa). Or how a childhood bike, found in an antique store with an insider owner, can have both sloppy handlebars and fully inflated tires, and apparently perfect brakes.
None of which would matter that much, presumably, if the story and action were more absorbing. But this is a film that leaves you with plenty of time to ponder such things and without delivering much of note that’s new. Where the first film is primarily horror, the new film seems to skew more towards comedy, with a shift from the fright associated with Pennywise and his diet, to the absurdity of it all. If anything, where it felt like it needed to amp up the scares, it either eases up or simply repeats itself. And, in a script that flirts with a running joke about adult Bill’s writing career and his inability to write compelling endings, the film carries the fatal and ironic flaw of delivering an entirely anti-climactic showdown that inappropriately brings to mind a quote from “Monty Python and The Holy Grail,” “Now go away or I will taunt you a second time!”
The second film here does little, if anything, to add to the first. It may even detract from it. By the end I was trying to decide if I would have appreciated the first more without having seen the second. And equally wondering if the second had so much of the first in it, that I might have thought better of the second film if I hadn’t previously watched the superior first film. I think, after all is said and done, I would have enjoyed Chapter Two more if it hadn’t spent so much time retroactively inserting so much additional content into Chapter One, which might have kept it buzzing along a little faster, with less time to sit back and think about bicycle brakes.
There’s something delightful about “Brittany Runs a Marathon” – not least that it isn’t a far more expensive film starring Rebel Wilson. Brittany (Jillian Bell) is an overweight underachiever who’s somewhat shocked when her doctor, from whom she just wanted to score a prescription, suggests she might want to focus on her health and weight. This prompts her take up running, largely because it’s cheaper than joining a club, and eventually leading her to attempt the New York City Marathon, which might have been a spoiler if not for the title of the film.
It’s a light, enjoyable film, especially in the first half, as Brittany begins to try and take back control of her life. But it also makes many of the initial steps seem a little too quick and easy. And where it gets to be more of a struggle, it loses touch with some of its earlier humor, not so much balancing the comedy and the drama as shifting from one to the other. However, it remains fairly pleasant throughout, and is a decent counter-programming choice for those who don’t want to see a scary clown re-chewing the same scenery as before.