'It: Chapter Two': What the Critics Are Saying
The reviews are in for Andy Muschietti's It: Chapter Two.
The sequel takes place 27 years after the Losers Club defeated Pennywise (played by Bill Skarsgard) in the 2017 original. Now adults, the friends have gone their separate ways. When kids begin to disappear again, Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the only one of the group to remain in their hometown of Derry, Maine, calls the others home to take down Pennywise. James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, James Ransone, Jay Ryan and Andy Bean also star.
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It: Chapter Two, which will be released in theaters Friday, currently has a 71 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore writes that the story should have been told in a miniseries format due to its episodic structure. "The series grows monotonous and fails to generate an escalating dread," DeFore says. While DeFore praises Hader's scene-stealing performance, he says that the older cast lacks the chemistry of the younger cast from the first film, though the original cast appears in flashbacks throughout the sequel. "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 hourlong episodes," DeFore writes.
The New York Times critic A.O. Scott writes that the sequel features a similar ending to the original film, "which is a lot like every other climactic, big-budget action-movie battle." He added, "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." Scott also writes that the film doesn't teach the audience much new information about the adult versions of the characters. He also thinks that the film is too long. "An 1,100-page novel like It can be a breathless page-turner. But this 2-hour-49-minute movie drags more than it jumps, wearing out its premise and possibly also your patience as it lumbers toward the final showdown," Scott writes.
USA Today's Brian Truitt gives It: Chapter Two three out of four stars. While he writes that the film features enough scary moments to keep fans interested, "it’s also an ambitious, thought-provoking work that aims for more." Truitt asserts that the sequel is not as "tight or affecting as the original tale," though it effectively tackles themes of memory and childhood trauma. Truitt also praises Muschietti's sparse use of Pennywise in the film, which he says "makes the villain's appearances special." Truitt, like many other critics, notes that the younger cast outshines the older.
Jim Vejvoda from IGN writes that the sequel "can’t quite stick the landing after the high expectations set" by the 2017 film. "Although marred by pacing issues and some shoddy CGI, It: Chapter Two still has enough creepy set-pieces and solid performances to bring the saga to an effective, albeit formulaic, conclusion," he says. Vejvoda agrees that the younger stars "cast a long shadow over the entire film." He adds, "While the adult Losers are all effective in their own ways, they never quite resonate like their teen counterparts." The critic says that Chastain's performance is "solid," though Hader outshines his co-stars. "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," Vejvoda concludes.
The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw gives the film two of five stars. While the critic says that the pic includes "some lively stuff" like "a few sensational cameos and interesting ideas about confronting one’s personal demons, about homophobia, abuse and depression," he notes that the sequel is similar to the first film in that it is a "virtual non-narrative anthology of standard jump-scares." Continues Bradshaw, "The second time around, your tolerance for this is tested to destruction and beyond because, unlike the first movie, it is just so pointlessly long." He adds, "It: Chapter Two finds no clear and satisfying way of engaging with the obvious question: is Pennywise a metaphorical expression of the gang’s inner horrors, or a standalone devil whose existence has nothing to do with the psychology of those ranged against him, or something between the two?"
Scott Mendelson writes in his Forbes review that It: Chapter Two "both doubles down on the mistakes of the first offering (which, to be fair, earned $700 million worldwide so the term 'mistakes' is deeply subjective) and makes entirely new mistakes." He adds that despite the "strong acting, superb production values and the good will earned by a major studio spending around $70 million on an R-rated, three-hour horror movie, It: Chapter Two is even more disappointing than the first film." Mendelson also criticizes a second act that "essentially gives this film an excuse to replay a truncated version of the first movie." While the critic calls the film was "ambitious," he concludes that it's "not scary, lacks the rawness and ugly oomph of even the 1990 mini-series and doesn't remotely justify its length."
Brian Lowry from CNN writes of the pic that "a level of numbing repetition creeps into its elaborately staged scares." He continues, "The result is a movie with a lot of strong moments, but which feels too much like It: Endgame or Once Upon a Time ... in Derry, aspiring to epic qualities that it doesn't earn or possess." On a more positive note, Lowry writes that the sequel "stepped up in class special effects-wise, and many of the visuals are striking," while "the cast is strong, especially Hader and Ransone." Lowry concludes that the movie is worth seeing, though "there's both not enough and too much, ultimately, to really float your boat."
The A.V. Club's Katie Rife says It: Chapter Two is not as scary as the 2017 original. "It has some funny jokes, a couple of really good performances, impressive creature and set design, and pleasing cinematography. But when it comes down to it, It: Chapter Two just isn’t all that scary," she writes. Rife also praised Hader's performance and says he "picks up the whole movie, puts it in his pocket, and walks away with it." The critic also comments on Muschietti's ability to "skillfully blend past and present with sweeping camera movements," as well as art and production design that "are both top notch and full of tactile detail." Concludes Rife, "What a shame, then to build this beautiful stage, populate it with talented actors and high-level craftspeople, and then drop them all through the trap door of plodding humor and scattershot plotting."
Sept. 4, 4:22 p.m. Updated to include the film's Rotten Tomatoes rating after more major reviews were factored in.
by Pamela McClintock
by Richard Newby