I brought a friend with me to this movie screening because she loves horror films. She liked the first movie a lot more than I did, and as we walked out of this one, she exclaimed, “That was amazing. They knocked it out of the park. I loved the special effects. I loved how they mixed the 40-year-old characters, with the kids. I liked how it was ten times scarier than the first movie. It was bittersweet in the final act, but I also loved how it ended.”
There was about 10 seconds of silence as we continued walking to the parking lot before she asked, “Well, what did you think of it?”
I replied, “I thought it was horse sh**!”
She stopped in her tracks and said, “No way! Are you serious?”
Here’s the story. It’s supposed to be 27 years later, and the “Losers’ Club” has returned to Derry, Maine, to stop the evil clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard). For some reason, the filmmakers felt we needed to spend three hours with these adults, and flashbacks with them as kids (played by Sophia Lillis, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs, and Wyatt Oleff).
Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) stayed in Derry and monitors police scanners for suspicious activity that might show that Pennywise has returned. And he has. That means getting the band back together, and seeing how they turned out. Richie (Bill Hader) is a big time stand-up comedian, playing huge halls. Beverly (Jessica Chastain) runs a big clothing line, and she gets beat up by her husband (side note: movies that show abusive husbands rarely do it in a way that feels believable). Bill (James McAvoy) is a successful author and playwright, but everyone hates the endings of his stories (which I’m guessing is a nod to Stephen King, since often times the endings of his books suck). He also has a bit of a stuttering problem because…well, he did that so well with his character in Split.
They meet up with Ben (Jay Ryan), who has lost all the weight and looks great (perhaps a nod to Jerry O’Connell from Stand by Me), Eddie (James Ransone), and Stanley (Andy Bean) at a Chinese restaurant to decide what to do. That scene had a few fun moments, but it ended up being ridiculous. The way one character gets so mad and curses out his friends, just doesn’t feel like how adults act. Even ones that are on edge. And, a cool moment with a message being sent to them in the form of fortune cookies could’ve worked well, but is ruined by a creature popping out of a cookie like an alien out of John Hurt’s stomach in Alien. And the movie never let up with the goofy CGI. Part of the problem is…we’ve seen every type of creature you can create. So, having characters that look like Iron Maiden’s mascot Eddie, just isn’t that creepy, despite all the jump scares you throw at us. They also relied on at least three characters (including Pennywise near the end), with super long tongues. How is a long tongue scary? (unless you’re spending the night with Gene Simmons).
Part of the problem with this movie is that in the first one, the kids were at least interesting to watch. It reminded me of watching Stand by Me in high school; it probably reminded others of the kids in Stranger Things (especially since it cast Finn Wolfhard from that show). The adult versions just aren’t interesting characters to spend this much time with.
This movie also feels like a boring rehash of the themes that were tackled the first time around. And since this is three hours long, it bored me to tears. Now, I spent three hours during the weekend watching the director’s cut of Midsommar, so if interesting stuff is happening, a long runtime could work. It just doesn’t here. I can only watch so many spider creatures with human heads. It overstays its welcome before the 3rd act when they returned to the sewer to perform some ancient, Native American ceremony, followed by the lengthy endings Stephen King loves, where survivors all wish each other well, hug, and blah blah blah.
The director relied too much on the shape-shifting of Pennywise, which isn’t all that interesting. It’s creepier when we see something, like an old woman Beverly goes to visit, who ends up lurking around in the background as she prepares tea. Give me more of that, or cool shots at the carnival (side note: carnivals always look great on the big screen, with all the lights and sounds). Speaking of carnivals, the movie started with a gay couple being beat up by some thugs, and one thrown off a bridge. How utterly unsatisfying for us that Pennywise didn’t go to town on those losers.
There was also an interesting edit early on where the camera scans up to show the stars in the night sky, and they become pieces of a jigsaw puzzle one of the characters is working on.
The film did have a few jokes that worked, and a few jump scares that were frightening.
There was also a fun cameo from Stephen King, who looked and sounded like Bruce Dern. He was running a pawn shop, and wearing a shirt from one of the best albums ever — Neil Young’s “Harvest.”
And, because every movie has to have a barf scene, this had two people throwing up, and one creature.
I’m giving this movie 1 ½ stars out of 5, but if you liked the first movie, you’ll probably like this sequel.