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Critics say It: Chapter Two is big, scary and indulgent — and also way too long
Beep beep, Andy! Over the weekend, Todd Phillips' Joker received near critical acclaim after it premiered at the Venice Film Festival. Sadly, the same cannot be said for another clown-centric film, It: Chapter Two, which floats into theaters everywhere this Friday, Sept. 6. Reviews for the horror sequel are now online, and critics aren't overwhelmingly enamored with the long 2-hour and 49-minute runtime which they say undercuts some genuine, stomach-churning scares to be witnessed in Pennywise's second murderous outing in Derry, Maine.
Written by Gary Dauberman (adapting the screenplay from Stephen King's 1986 novel of the same name) and directed by Andy Muschietti, Chapter Two takes place 27 years after the first movie, centering on the adult version of the Losers' Club, which vanquished (or so they thought) Pennywise back in 1988. When the clown (Bill Skarsgård) wakes up from its slumber and kills a young gay man named Adrian Mellon (Xavier Dolan), the Losers make good on their childhood promise — despite comfortable and successful lives away from Derry — and come back home with the intention of killing the shape-shifting Lovecraftian horror once and for all. Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) is the only member to have remained in town all these years, and it is he who summons his friends back to where it all began.
Even with an all-star ensemble playing the adults, some reviewers were let down by how underused Jessica Chastain (Beverly Marsh) and James McAvoy (Bill Denbrough) are in the film. The only standout seems to be Bill Hader, who plays the wise-cracking Richie Tozier. Andy Bean (Stan Uris), James Ransone (Eddie Kaspbrak), and Jay Ryan (Ben Hanscom) round out the rest of the main cast.
Stop sailing your paper boat for a minute, and find out what critics are saying below ...
"It: Chapter Two is much longer than it needs to be, but it builds to something significant — and a lot of that filler feels justifiable in terms of how audiences’ consumption patterns are changing. Whereas the three-hour 1990 miniseries version was split across two nights, viewers now binge an entire season of Stranger Things — a shameless It knockoff that improves on King’s novel — in a single weekend. In retrospect, it’s easy to see that the 2017 film (already long at 135 minutes) was just a glorified trailer for this movie. Still, Muschetti could have used It to launch a franchise or an open-ended TV series, but instead, he recognizes the value in closure." -Peter Debruge, Variety
"Though Muschietti occasionally finds lovely filmic ways to transition from one to the next, the stories don't get to resonate with each other in a meaningful or emotional way — as they might in a series of well crafted hour-long episodes. A moviegoer who just sat for 169 minutes is loathe to say it, but there needs to be more of this It — just not in this form." -John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter
"The heart of the first film is still there in It: Chapter Two — it’s just buried under a layer of self-indulgent bloat. Director Andy Muschietti constructs a series of scary show-stoppers anchored by the compelling performances of his adult and teen actors. It’s just a shame that It: Chapter Two never quite finds its footing, pacing-wise, and as a result can’t quite nail the conclusion of this engrossing saga." -Jim Vejvoda, IGN
"The main problem with Chapter Two is that it goes on, and on, for so very long. If brevity is not necessarily the soul of a good scare, it would certainly serve a story that sends in the clowns, and then lets them just stay there — leering and lurking and chewing through scene after scene — until the there’s nothing left to do but laugh, or leave." -Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
"It: Chapter Two wants to do King’s novel justice, and in many ways it does, but there are a number of moments where you can’t help but feel how tired some of King's themes come across in 2019. Old tropes about Native American rituals and an over-reliance on dense expository dumping stand out as two of the movie’s more glaring weaknesses, and there are more than a few occasions when it doesn’t make any sense why Pennywise doesn’t just get on with it and eat these people if he’s been dying to do it for so long." -Charles Pulliam-Moore, io9
"Genre-wise, Chapter Two delights in itself, just as the book did. King conceived It as a 'final exam on horror,' throwing in all the monsters people were afraid of when he was growing up. Muschietti seems equally in debt to decades of cinematic horror, 1970s and 1980s films being particular influences. There are exquisitely executed scares with the various ghouls, from unsettling background spine-chillers to full-force frightmares. It is both classy and disgusting, the creature design [is] wonderfully inventive, all in the service of scaring you. These, though, are the sideshows. Mere supporting acts for a horrendous headliner." -Alex Godfrey, Empire Magazine
"Every thread leads to a third act culminating a near three-hour movie with some spectacle that’s hard to stay too invested in or get scared by when you might find yourself checking your watch. The final moments are clouded with CGI and flashing lights which, for some, might come with scares while, for others, it ends up losing a bit of the terror. Fortunately, a surprising amount of heart is added to the finale, and the overall experience with the follow-up warrants the price of admission." -Brandon Davis, ComicBook.com
"We also know how the whole thing will end — not so much in terms of plot details (though we kind of know that, too) as of spectacle. The big fight at the end of Chapter Two is a lot like the one at the end of Chapter One, which is a lot like every other climactic, big-budget action-movie battle. It’s not scary or surprising to watch a movie’s heart and imagination being devoured by the same old thing, but it is dispiriting." -A.O. Scott, The New York Times
"There is much to admire on the surface of It: Chapter Two. There is something inspiring about a studio spending Event Horizon-level money on a three-hour, R-rated supernatural horror flick. Ambitions aside, It: Chapter Two is not scary, lacks the rawness and ugly oomph of even the 1990 mini-series and doesn't remotely justify its length. It neuters its own macro storytelling with 'personal' motivations and undercuts its drama with soothing comedy." -Scott Mendelson, Forbes
"The Losers Club members are interchangeable and forgettable as grown-ups, as the stars fail to act their way out of a shoddy screenplay. Sure, Hader provides a few morsels of comic relief, but he looks ill at ease doing the oh-my-gosh-help-me! thing in front of a green screen. Chastain has little to do other than speak in hushed tones and look agonized. What a waste of top-tier talent." -Mara Reinstein, Us Weekly
"Visually, the film is a treat, with darkness rarely hindering clarity and a few set pieces, including one that almost feels as though it had been pulled out of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, helping to keep the film’s nearly three-hour runtime feeling relatively snappy. An increased roster of monsters also means that the things that go bump in the dark are continuous surprises, spooky treats to look forward to as the movie progresses ... A few scenes kept from the book — and a few added on — either come across as unnecessarily or a little thoughtlessly tacked on. New character details feel almost retcon-esque as to pack on extra emotional heft to a finale that would have still packed a punch without it." -Karen Han, Polygon