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It Chapter Two ***

The characters are well-developed, the scares are legit, and this is a worthy sequel that’s better than its 2017 predecessor. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

It’s been 27 years since the Losers Club defeated Pennywise the clown (Bill Skarsgard) in “It” (2017). During that time most of the club members moved away, except Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), who lives above the town library and keeps watch for signs the evil clown has returned. And lo, at the start of “It Chapter Two,” Pennywise has returned.

To the phone Mike goes, calling the other six Losers, all of whom swore a blood oath that they would return to Derry, Maine, should Pennywise re-emerge. Bill (James McAvoy) is a successful author; Richie (Bill Hader) is a stand-up comedian; Eddie (James Ransone) is a risk analyst; Ben (Jay Ryan) is an architect; Stanley (Andy Bean) is about to take his wife to Buenos Aires; and the lone female in the group, Beverly (Jessica Chastain), has an abusive husband.

These phone calls could’ve been done as a montage, but writer Gary Dauberman and director Andy Muschietti treat each as individual scenes. In doing so, the viewer feels more “caught up” with where each person is now, and they register as real people who’ve moved on with their lives as opposed to grown up versions of the children we previously got to know. This is important, because it creates emotional investment in the characters, and we need to care about them for the movie to work. 

All return except one (no spoilers here!). Mike thinks he has a plan to defeat Pennywise, but it’s shaky at best. Part of the plan is for each Loser to retrieve a token from their childhood that could be used for a sacrifice, which leads to the best scares in the film, especially when Beverly returns to her old apartment.

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The visual effects, particularly those involving Pennywise, are strong but not spectacular, which is fine. More impressive is the ensemble, which effectively updated characters originated two years ago by kids. The Losers from the 2017 film (Finn Wolfhard, Jaeden Martell, et al.) also appear, as Muschietti deftly balances the past and present in a way that allows the story to come together impressively well. And kudos to Skarsgard, who once again embodies Pennywise with disturbing menace.

At 169 minutes, this is the longest horror film ever made. Does it have to be this long? No, but it doesn’t feel long, which is important. Cutting 15 minutes or so would’ve made it mildly easier to sit through, but the truth is most of the content is worthwhile. Sure the climax is drawn out, and we don’t need as much of local wacko named Henry Bowers (Teach Grant) as we get, but otherwise the running time is legit.

Watching the film, the wife and I were holding hands (sweet, I know). I long ago became immune to jump scares, though my facial expressions during “It Chapter Two” certainly revealed my being freaked out at times. The wife, however, will jump at the surprises. I eventually had to stop holding her hand because she’d squeeze too tight after the jump scares. So she placed her hand on my knee. I now have a bruise on my knee.

Did you know?
The paperback version of Stephen King’s “It” is 1,184 pages; King cameos in the film as the store clerk who overcharges Bill for a bike.

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