“IT: Chapter Two” is an entertaining, candy-colored, spook-tastic carnival ride through the mean streets of Derry, replete with freakish creatures bursting out of fortune cookies, evil old ladies and, yes, everybody’s favorite clown.
It’s not, however, a great movie. Not that it needs to be — it’s got enough monsters and beautifully rendered set pieces to distract from the fact that it’s too long, lacking in character development, and, aside from a few good jumps and one genuinely disturbing scene, not actually that scary.
The good stuff is, as it was with the first chapter of the two-part “IT” adaptation, all the imaginatively rendered elements, all of which are mostly faithful to the book. There’s the excellent scene in the Chinese restaurant (“Jade of the Orient,” based on Bangor’s real-life Oriental Jade), the chase through the carnival fun house, the visit with Mrs. Kersh and, of course, Richie’s memorable interaction with a certain iconic Derry statue — all scenes that are visually stunning and fun to watch.
Among the Loser’s Club, James McAvoy admirably takes the lead as Bill Denbrough, adopting a frightened stutter as soon as he returns to his hometown. James Ransone as Eddie Kaspbrak maintains the nervous energy of his teenage counterpart in the first movie. But the real stars of the show are Bill Skarsgard, as menacing and freaky as he was the first time he played Pennywise, and Bill Hader, who is the kind of actor that makes everything he’s in better, while also giving it heart and, of course, humor. He’s perfect as Richie Tozier.
The rest of the cast is a bit more fuzzy. It remains somewhat unclear why, even though everyone else left, Mike stayed in Derry all those years — sense of duty? PTSD? Free rent at the library? Jessica Chastain’s Bev and Jay Ryan’s Ben aren’t given much to do besides react or look frightened or sad. And Henry Bowers, in the book, is a truly terrifying presence, nearly as scary as Pennywise himself. Here, he’s a one-note mental patient, who is dispatched nearly as swiftly as he’s introduced, and with nowhere near enough scenes featuring him and Patrick Hockstetter, his undead road trip buddy.
As thrillingly monstrous as “IT: Chapter Two” is, however, it’s just not that scary. While Pennywise is a darn near perfect movie villain, terrifying he’s not — at least in this film. Scene-stealing and funny and capable of outrageous violence, sure. But you won’t have nightmares about him. Unless you truly have diagnosable coulrophobia.
For Mainers and for Bangor residents, there are tons of local easter eggs to pick out, and there are also some great cameos that we won’t spoil here. It’s really a fun movie. It won’t win any Oscars, you won’t be moved to tears by any of the performances, and you’ll probably look at your phone at least once to see how far you are through the film’s whopping two-hour, 49-minute runtime. But you’ll certainly be entertained.