IT CHAPTER TWO / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: ANDY MUSCHIETTI / STARRING: GARY DAUBERMAN / STARRING: JESSICA CHASTAIN, JAMES MCAVOY, BILL HADER, BILL SKARSGÅRD, ISAIAH MUSTAFA / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 6TH
‘A depressing Stand by Me’ is how IT: The Losers’ Club might have been described. For all the camaraderie, the first part of Stephen King’s story finished with the kids traumatised after fighting Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Director Andy Muschietti’s new film is literally IT: Chapter Two as the adult Losers try to right their pasts and save their town, Derry, from evil.
The adult stars so closely resemble their child counterparts that suspension of disbelief is instant thanks to the miracle that is casting agent Rich Della. The Wire’s James Ransone even has Jack ‘Eddie’ Grazer’s eyebrow wiggle down to a tee. The acting is uniformly good, in some places great. Jessica Chastain is believably hanging on by a well-manicured fingernail as Bev, James McAvoy is appropriately angry as Bill (if the stutter does come and go with the tide) and Bill Hader makes even the manic Richie quiet behind the eyes. Andy Bean gives Stan a beautifully nuanced, narrative-altering calm. Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise gets to lark about a lot, but is at his best when playing with quiet menace. The kids are back, too, with Sophia Lillis even more blazingly brilliant this time around. They’re not quite the characters of the book, but they make the film their own. Keep your eyes peeled for cameos, both extended and of the ‘blink or you’ll miss them’ kind.
Storywise, these Losers are more realistic, acting as you might if some dude you knew nearly thirty years ago told you to fight a supernatural beastie. And fight they do - the practical effects are inventive, beguilingly folksy, and not a little bit grotesque.
Key book sequences have made it in, new sequences - some more necessary than others - have been added and the 2-hour, 49 minutes running time has a very showy conclusion with lots of fan service. It is sometimes a little tonally awkward with extended gags altering the emotional beats, but these changes are also heart-warming - even in mortal danger, the Losers are having the best time. In fact, the film actually uses King’s own style to address his reputation and that of his story; you’ll need a hanky or ten.
IT: Chapter Two mixes blockbuster effects with characters with whom you can believe you are there. If the film is a core of King’s legacy, I suspect he’s now a very happy man. The Losers live on forever.
Doc Charlie Allbright's book Stephen King’s IT: Culture and the Clown will be released later this year.
Expected Rating: 9 out of 10