Mr. Movie

Mr. Movie: ‘It Chapter Two’: Acting saves drawn-out Stephen King tale

“It” was released two years ago in 2017. One of my complaints about the movie was that “it” — pun intended — wasn’t totally faithful to the book and was just half of the story.

This naturally forces us to the business at hand and that is the positives and negatives of the sequel, “It Chapter Two.”

The first — and almost only — positive is the acting. While I didn’t find Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise the Clown all that terrifying in the first film, director Andy Muschietti and writer Gary Dauberman do a much better job this time around. With a tweak or two they’ve turned him into something a little more frightening than what he managed in the original movie.

That leads to the negatives. Unfortunately, “It Chapter Two” is straight ahead horror and like the 2017 film, doesn’t have much in — there’s that pun again — “it” to make you jump. Skarsgard’s positive and the story’s potential horror is somewhat undone by a dragged out movie and boring characters.

It is a horrifying waste of a very good cast.

The adults are played by Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone and Andy Bean. They join Skarsgard and the first film’s equally good cast of kid actors. Muschietti and the producers do a great job of finding lookalike actors that have enough similar facial features to make you believe they’re the kids all grown up.

“It Chapter Two” has the younger actors handling the flashbacks and the adult actors zeroing in on the evil clown.

Memory is important to “It Chapter Two” as it takes up the story of the “loser club” kids 27 years later. They are now grown up, have successful careers and lives, and remember very little about each other nor much about the chaos and death caused by Pennywise.

All they know is once the phone call came, no matter what was going on, they had to return to Derry, Maine, and finish the job they started a couple of decades ago.

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The grown-up Losers Club of "It Chapter Two." Brooke Palmer TNS

While the now grown up losers can’t remember much, we all remember from the first film — and the book — that every couple of decades Pennywise rears his ugly head. With red balloons filling the air, Pennywise kills and eats the children in Derry and then goes into hibernation.

Much like the first film, “It Chapter Two” has the sometimes puzzled protagonists chasing the antagonist in the circular way most films use to pad a part two. There’s too much chasing, and too much of the adults alternately threatening to bag the whole thing, leave Derry and return to their dreary but successful lives.

The kid flashback parts give them reasons to stay.

Chastain’s Beverly had a vision when she was a kid played by Sophie Lillis. The vision said if they don’t finish Pennywise off they’ll all die. So instead of leaving Derry they stay in a movie that — itself — dies.

Not horribly but dies nonetheless.

Stephen King has been quoted as saying he loves this version of his novel. He even does a wonderfully funny cameo. To be fair, “It Chapter Two” is a decent horror movie and certainly beats the chop and slash crap that has been passed off as horror for the last couple of decades.

Best of all, you can watch this film without knowing much about, or even seeing, the first one and not be all that lost. So I’m going to recommend the movie and give it a positive rating.

That takes us back to King.

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Bill Skarsgard in "It Chapter Two." Warner Bros TNS

Main character Bill Denbrough and the disappearance of his brother Georgie starts the story. It is a deep and troubling event that drives him to be a novelist and screenwriter. No one — however — likes how he ends his stories.

King has a similar problem.

He writes books that hook you and keep you hooked from start to finish. Ironically, like Denbrough, King’s climaxes often fail and leave you shaking your head and disappointed. The finale of the now two “It” movies falls into the head shaking category.

The why of that — or should we say “it?” — comes from Muschietti and Dauberman. They both did the first film and are responsible for its padding and that of the second. This movie goes on for a dreadfully, and often tedious 2:49 before things are settled and we can pop out of the theater seats where we’ve been settled for too long. The first film — released almost exactly two-years ago — lasted 2:15. Stephen King’s 1986 novel came in just one piece and was 1,138 pages long.

Are you sensing a pattern here?

Combined, “It Chapter Two” and “It” run a couple of minutes over five hours. Take this project and make it a single three hour movie and this is one of the best horror movies ever done. I am not a big fan of producers wanting to pad their bank accounts and profit portfolios at the expense of moviegoers. That’s where “It Chapter Two” seems to fall.

▪ Rated R for language, mature themes and violence. It’s playing at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s, the AMC Classic Kennewick 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

▪ Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

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