The 2017 adaptation of “It” mixed horror with a “Stand by Me”-like coming-of-age tale, deftly turning the first half of Stephen King’s classic novel into a satisfying, self-contained film.
There was a whole other half of that novel, however, and “It Chapter Two” covers it nicely, though somewhat differently than the first movie.
“Chapter Two” picks up 27 years after the events of the summer of 1989. Most of the members of the Losers Club who battled the killer clown Pennywise have scattered throughout the country, but historian Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) has stayed in Derry, Maine and kept close watch for the clown’s return.
When violent deaths begin, he puts out a call for everyone to come back and live up to their childhood vow to finish the job.
The now 40-somethings have forgotten just about everything from their summer of tween hell, but once they get together in Maine, the horror starts to come back to them.
Though the talented young actors who owned the first film all get flashback scenes — both old and new — Chapter Two focuses on their older dopplegangers.
James McAvoy is group leader Bill, now a successful writer. Jessica Chastain looks just like you’d imagine the heroic Beverly would look, now a fashion designer with poor taste in husbands.
Ben (Jay Ryan), then the smart, chubby kid, is now a hunky architect who still carries a flame for Beverly. Eddie is still a hypochondriac with mother issues, played now by James Ransone, doing a poor man’s Steve Carell impersonation.
The highlight of the cast is former “Saturday Night Live” funnyman Bill Hader as Richie.
Richie is now a vulgar stand-up comedian and Hader (“Barry”) brings most of the film’s welcome humorous moments, while also showing some some significant dramatic chops.
Bill Skarsgard returns as the fear-soaking clown Pennywise, boasting a familiar bag of tricks. While the film is not really terrifying, Skarsgard helps maintain an atmosphere of dread, and there are some creepy special effects, with things transforming into unexpected other things.
“Chapter Two” loses some of the camaraderie of the first film — and obviously is missing the coming-of-age features that were so appealing — but it’s still at its best when the group is all together.
There are large stretches in the middle of the nearly three-hour film, though, where members of the group are off by themselves, confronting their own personal demons.
Eventually they do get back together again, however, and provide a satisfying conclusion to the story that should stave off any further sequels. Not that “It 3: Geriatric Clown Bashers” wouldn’t be appealing.
Rental Recommendation: It’s the 25th anniversary of the finest Stephen King movie, “The Shawshank Redemption.” Grade: A-plus
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It Chapter Two
Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader
Rated: R (for disturbing violent content and bloody images throughout, pervasive language, and some crude sexual material)
Running time: 169 minutes