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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY WARNER BROS.James McAvoy (Bill), Jessica Chastain (Bev), Bill Hader (Richie) juxtaposed with actors who play their younger selves in “It Chapter Two.” CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY WARNER BROS.James McAvoy (Bill), Jessica Chastain (Bev), Bill Hader (Richie) juxtaposed with actors who play their younger selves in “It Chapter Two.”

Movie Review: ‘It” takes two; too long

Friday, September 20, 2019 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

It is a very long chapter.

At nearly three-hours-long, “It Chapter Two” makes the case for more than one sequel. This is one case where two sequels would have been better than one.

At least each sequel would have probably been shorter.

“It Chapter Two” returns us to the fictional Derry, Me., 27 years later. The impetus is a pact made by The Losers Club, when they were pre-teens, to return to Derry if Pennywise, the killer clown, ever returns to his malevolent ways.

He does.

And they do.

The youths, who were targeted by bullies, banded together in the summer of 1989 to fight Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), a shape-shifting monster, who takes on the appearance of a clown similar-looking to Bozo.

All grown up and with someplace they don’t want to go are the adult members of The Losers Club: Bev (Jessica Chastain), Bill (James McAvoy), Richie (Bill Hader), Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), Ben (Jay Ryan), Eddie (James Ransone) and Stanley (Andy Bean).

“It Chapter Two” includes lots of flashbacks to tell the back stories of each lead character with the young actors from the original “It” theatrical release reappearing: Young Bev (Sophia Lillis), Young Bill (Jaeden Martell), Young Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Young Mike (Chosen Jacobs), Young Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Young Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Young Stanley (Wyatt Oleff).

It’s a lot of characters, a lot of actors, and a lot of stories to keep track of.

Fortunately, the casting of adult actors is excellent in matching the appearances of the young actors.

The casting is also excellent because superb actors were chosen for the adult roles. The actors playing the young characters were excellent in the original “It” and are once again excellent in “It Chapter Two.”

The editing (Jason Ballantine, “How It Ends,” 2018; ”The Great Gatsby,” 2013) of the flashbacks is expertly and evocatively done, almost always seamlessly so. The cinematography (Director of Photography Checco Varese, “The 33,” 2015; “The Aura,” 2005) in camera angles, establishing shots and close-ups of the actors is great. The film’s score Benjamin Wallfisch (“Blade Runner 2049,” 2017) and sound design is terrific and adds to the emotional impact of the stories of each character, as well as to the scary and frightening scenes, of which there are plenty.

As directed by Andy Muschietti (director, “It,” 2017), working from a screenplay by Gary Dauberman (“It,” “Annabelle,” 2014, and its 2017 and 2019 sequels), there are numerous fine scenes between the adult characters and the young characters. The film really sets the mood for each character’s back stories.

As the adult Bev, Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and Bill Hader are standouts. Chastain always gives a range and depth to her roles. McAvoy always brings an eerie subtext to his roles. Hader always brings something goofy to his roles.

All is good with “It Chapter Two,” to a point. While the film will probably please fans of the novel, “It” (1986) by Stephen King (who has a cameo in “Chapter Two,” as does screenwriter-director Peter Bogdanovich), it is too long and goes off the rails, i.e., jumps the shark, about mid-way to three-quarters of the way through its agonizingly-long length. A little less CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) would have gone a long way to making the film a more compact horror film, as was the original “It.”

Not only may “It” make you wary even of Ronald McDonald after you see the film, it make you wary of the lazy-Susan dishes in the private dining room of an Asian restaurant. To reveal more would spoil the dining, er, viewing experience for you.

Indeed, “It Chapter Two” is cheeky fun. At one point, the character played by Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” (1980), director Stanley Kubrick’s landmark horror film based on another Stephen King classic, is replicated and, peering from behind a partially-opened door, says, “Here’s Johnny.”

The screenplay emphasizes the dominance of memory in the human experience, and how sometimes the worst memories stay with us, and can overwhelm the good memories. It, pun intended, certainly sounds like a textbook case of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It can also be seen as a metaphor for war, terrorism and domestic violence (the latter of which is one of the film’s subthemes).

The film successfully blurs the line between each character’s imagination, hallucinations, nightmares and reality. The movie-goer is, for the most part, kept in suspense as to what is reality and what isn’t. However, in some scenes, the monster-like manifestations are akin to those in a 1950s’ second-rate amusement park funhouse ride. They’re just silly.

Moreover, “It Chapter Two” seems hell-bent on heading into “Tomb Raider” and Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Comics Extended Universe territory when it takes adult characters back into the haunted house and down the rabbit hole of a storm sewer that would rival the river Styx, and many other similar scenes (“The Phantom of the Opera,” 1989; “Alligator,” 1980; “Them,” 1954). Furthermore, if I want to see stalactites and stalagmites, I’ll go to a natural underground cave. “It Chapter Two” certainly makes the case for the need for a massive overhaul of America’s infrastructure.

Then, there is the matter of Pennywise. The great thing about this killer clown is that he’s so lean and balletic in his movements and so sickly-sweet in his facial gestures, thanks to a bravura performance by Bill Skarsgard that is certainly one of the most iconic in the history of cinema.

In “It Chapter Two,” however, the emphasis on Pennywise is on his shape-shifting characteristics. What is so effectively terrifying about Pennywise is his banality. Seeing Pennywise taking on all manner of form this side of “Beetlejuice” (1988) detracts and distracts from the inherent horror of the character.

That said, “It Chapter Two” should please fans of “It,” the original movie, and of the Stephen King novel. Just be prepared to sit through a very long “Chapter Two.”

“It Chapter Two,” MPAA Rated R (Restricted Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their young children with them.) for disturbing violent content and bloody images throughout, pervasive language, and some crude sexual material; Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror; Run Time: 2 hrs., 45 min. Distributed by Warner Bros.

Credit Readers Anonymous: “It Chapter Two” was filmed in Toronto, Ontario and Vancouver, Canada, and Chicago.

Box Office, Sept. 13-15: ”It Chapter Two” got lucky again, staying at No. 1 two weeks in a row with $40.7 million, $153.8 million, two weeks, keeping the Jennifer Lopez drama, “Hustlers” opening at No. 2 with $33.2 million, one week. 3. “Angel Has Fallen,” dropped one place, $4.4 million, $60.3 million, four weeks. 4. “Good Boys” dropped one place, $4.2 million, $73.3 million, five weeks. 5. “The Lion King” dropped one place, $3.5 million, $533.9 million, nine weeks. 6. “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” dropped one place, $2.7 million, $168.3 million, seven weeks. 7. “Overcomer” dropped one place, $2.7 million, $29 million, four weeks. 8. “The Goldfinch,” $2.6 million, opening. 9. “The Peanut Butter Falcon” moved up two places, $1.9 million, $15 million, six weeks. 10. “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” dropped three places, $1.9 million, $56.7 million, six weeks.

Unreel, Sept. 20:

“Downton Abbey,” PG: Michael Engler directs Matthew Goode, Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Tuppence Middleton and Hugh Bonneville in the Drama. The story of the wealthy Crawley family at their English mansion continues on the big screen.

“Rambo: Last Blood,” R: Adrian Grunberg directs Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Yvette Monreal and Louis Mandylor in the Action Film. Rambo confronts his past and gets his combat skills up to snuff for a final mission.

“Ad Astra,” PG-13: James Gray directs Brad Pitt, Liv Tyler, Ruth Negga and Tommy Lee Jones in the Science-Fiction Thriller. An astronaut embarks on a mission to find his father, missing on an expedition 30 years before.

“3 from Hell,” R: Rob Zombie directs Sheri Moon Zombie, Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Emilio Rivera and Bethlehem native Daniel Roebuck in the Horror film, a sequel to “The Devil’s Rejects.”

Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes