What’s “It” all about?
Well, this time, it is about three hours long … which is maybe about an hour longer than it needs to be. “It Chapter Two” anticipates the desire for more by viewers who made the movie of Stephen King’s novel such a huge box-office hit a couple of years ago. But there’s “more” and then there’s “too much,” and this sequel – which incorporates elements of a prequel – risks going way overboard.
In part, that’s to service the excellent young cast from the first movie that reappears in flashbacks, and also bigger-named stars who come aboard as their older incarnations. Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader and Jay Ryan of TV’s “Beauty and the Beast” are in the new group; collectively, they don’t achieve the same repartee as their younger counterparts, but Hader is a standout on a singular basis here.
Of course, the terrifying clown Pennywise is still around (again played by Bill Skarsgard), prompting a years-later reunion of the friends who have to revisit fears they thought they’d long left behind. In a Stephen King story? Are you kidding??
Admittedly, any King tale yields a wealth of material. Consider the television miniseries that was made not only of “It,” but also of “The Shining “ and “The Stand,” among others … and there was enough for an entire multiple-season series of “The Dead Zone,” though much of that was the invention of other writers using the roots set down by King.
Still, the point is that King’s works are rich in character and situations, a fact that generally is among their strong suits. What works in print doesn’t always work on film, though, despite the immense success that King adaptations have had on screen over the past 40-years-plus (dating back to the original 1976 version of “Carrie”). A screenplay generally condenses a book into a digestible size for moviegoers, but less condensing than usual seems to have happened with “It Chapter Two.”
By the time the picture reaches its loud and expected climax, you might feel like you’ve been through Chapters Three and Four, too. There’s nothing wrong with a movie wanting to give you your money’s worth, especially these days – but after the storytelling economy of the first “It,” “Chapter Two” stands as a renewal of evidence that indeed, less can be more.