No tension, no dread, no sense of peril, no suspense… Pennywise, the most incompetent killer clown in movie history, returns for It: Chapter 2, which isn’t very good, but at least it’s long.
Oh, man, is this sucker long; just a few minutes shy of three hours, and you feel every minute of it.
Length is not necessarily a problem, not even when it comes to It. Stephen King’s 1986 novel is close to 1200 pages and plenty engrossing. The 1990 television miniseries is over three hours (it was originally broadcast over two nights), and while it’s not scary, Tim Curry is beyond fabulous as Pennywise and the wistfully, nostalgic story’s compelling enough that I own the Blu-ray.
But length is a real problem when the product is an episodic and illogical slog.
What the hell is “It,” anyway?
Apparently It is a space-monster of some kind that arrived on earth millions of years ago to feed off the fear of children (were there children millions of years ago?) every 27 years (why every 27 years?), and because children fear clowns more than anything else (who knew?), It appears as Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgård) to drag them down into the sewers.
Pennywise might also feed off your fear.
I don’t know.
All I know is this…
Pennywise sucks at killing people. Even when he’s as big as three story building and sporting six claws he still can’t kill anyone, even in an enclosed space.
Worse still, even though he can shrink and grow at will, Pennywise is such an incompetent murderer that when his prey hides in a small space, rather than shrink to go get them, he crashes and bangs against the hiding place like a retarded dinosaur.
Time and time and time and time and *yawn* and time and time and *bathroom break* and time and time and *checks watch* and time and time and *checks watch again, why is it not moving!* and time and time again, Pennywise has his prey alone and trapped, and with a seemingly endless supply of supernatural power, no one ever dies — he can’t or won’t kill them.
But he does kill other people, so why doesn’t he kill any of the stars?
Why can Pennywise kill everyone but the stars, even when they’re alone?
None of this makes sense.
So what you get is an episodic series of CGI-filled set pieces where there’s no suspense.
And the worst of it is the middle hour where all six cast members separate to track down a talisman from their past which will be needed for a ritual to kill Pennywise once and for all… So one after another, we get six of set-pieces, each about ten minutes loooong, where Pennywise shows up in one form or another to do everything but finish the job.
If that’s not tedious enough, we also flashback 27 years to when Pennywise confronted this same person as an adolescent, which is even more tedious because obviously if we are watching a living adult’s flashback, you know no there’s no real peril… So why are we watching this…? Look at all the cool CGI, y’all!
And if you really want to talk about tedious, there’s an in-joke about King’s notorious inability to write decent endings that repeats so often it starts to feel like an elbow in the ribs from your Uncle Shecky: Get it?? Get it??? Didja get it?!?
What we don’t get, though, is the sense that Pennywise has returned, that children are disappearing from Derry, that the town is panicked or even worried. Where are the headlines, the curfews, the cops, the gossip…? Derry’s suppose to be a small town being preyed on by a serial killer, but you would never know it. Kids run around unattended, even at a local carnival, without a worried parent in sight, even after a kid is gruesomely murdered early on at a football game.
So Chapter 2 takes place 27 years after Chapter 1. It is now 2016 and the Losers Club from Chapter 1, which was set in 1989, are all growed up and in their early 40s.
Bill is now James McAvoy, a horror novelist whose books are being adapted into movies.
Beverly is now Jessica Chastain, a prominent fashion designer in an abusive marriage.
Ben is Jay Ryan, a prominent architect who lost all that weight to a point where he now looks like a Chippendale’s dancer.
Mike is now Old Spice Salesman Isaiah Mustafa, who stayed behind in Derry to keep watch for the inevitable return of Pennywise.
Eddie is now James Ransone, who grew up to basically marry his mom.
And Richie is now Bill Hader, who — get this — is a closeted homosexual in show business. Yes, you read that correctly, in the year 2016 there’s a guy in show business who doesn’t want to come out of the closet, even though doing so will immediately boost his career, make him a national hero, and allow him to bully all his enemies as he poses as a victim. That, by far, is the most unrealistic part of this absurd movie.
In fact, there is a lot of Woke in Chapter 2. The story opens with a brutal gay-bashing that has nothing to do with anything. As someone pointed out in the comments, this scene does appear in the book, but it makes sense there because the novel takes the time to explore the effect evil has on the town’s citizens. As I mentioned above, though, the town is never explored in any way, much less this way, so all we get is a couple guy-on-guy kisses (the only time over the three hours I covered my eyes) and a Very Special Message That In No Way Connects To The Overall Plot But Aren’t Rural White People Awful.
Chapter 2 is, in one way, an improvement over Chapter 1 (which I hated). Never for a moment did I buy the relationships between those kids in Chapter 1. Not for a moment was I never convinced they had bonded in some way. Unlike Stand By Me (a superb King adaptation) or The Goonies or The Monster Club or The Sandlot, it all felt forced, stiff, and unnatural. The relationship between the adults, however, I believed. The warmth was genuine, and until the CGI arrived to spoil everything, the movie actually captured me for a few moments during their reunion in a Japanese restaurant.
Before y’all start yelling, I did give Chapter 1 a second chance. After it made a gazillion dollars, I bought the Blu-ray assuming I was the problem.
The scariest part of Chapter 2 is your growing fear it will never end. After the fifth ending, I panicked. Fearing a post-credits scene foreshadowing a third chapter, I ran screaming from the theater.
This piece has been updated for context.