“It: Chapter 2” provides scares and laughs

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"It Chapter 2" promotional poster from www.imdb.com

“It: Chapter 2,” now playing at the Grand Theater in Knoxville, is an outstanding sequel that is heavy on both jump scares and laughs.

This is the sequel to the fan and critically acclaimed 2017 “It” film, based upon Stephen King’s novel. After re-watching the 2017 film just before the sequel, it remains worthy of the praise.

While the first film is focused on the main characters as children, collectively known as “The Losers’ Club”, the second one spends more time with them as adults. As children and adults, they literally go underground to fight a creature that feeds on children and can manifest itself in nearly any form – most often as Pennywise the Clown.

Pennywise is again played by Bill Skarsgard. The second film does not offer Skarsgard as many opportunities to showcase his evil character work as the first one. The CGI forms Pennywise takes are disturbing in “Chapter 2”, but I wish Skarsgard had more time to play the villain in human form. He played it to such perfection in “Chapter 1” in the scenes with the Losers’ Club and especially the inciting incident, when Pennywise takes Georgie.

I don’t know if it’s the adult in me, but the monster as a human is more easily to see as frightening than various other creatures. The CGI effects are fantastic, the other forms look very real and frightening, but I think it was a missed opportunity to let Skarsgard be more menacing in the makeup.

As for the Losers’ Club, “Chapter 1” was the character Bill’s movie. Bill (played very well as a child by Jaeden Martell and just as well as an adult by James McAvoy) is the brother of Georgie and the leader of the Losers’ Club. However, I see “Chapter 2” as more Richie’s movie.

Richie is the wise-cracking comedian of the group, again played to perfection by Finn Wolfhard as a child and Bill Hader as an adult. The character stood out in “Chapter 1” but in “Chapter 2”, he is the one with the most emotional heft. McAvoy’s performance as Bill definitely had emotional scenes, but I think Richie was given the deeper character arc in “Chapter 2”

Hader is known for his stint on “Saturday Night Live” and other comedic work, but he’s a very good actor. He’s got most of the laugh-out-loud funny lines in “Chapter 2”, but it was his dramatic scenes that seemed more authentic than even some of his fellow “A-listers”. I’d nominate him for Supporting Actor. If you want further proof of Hader’s talent, check out “The Skeleton Twins”.

One of the unexpected surprises of the film was James Ransone as Eddie. When I first saw him in the trailer, I thought he was Jon Hamm. Guess after paying Jessica Chastain, McAvoy, Skarsgard and Hader, they had to go with the poor man’s version of Hamm. In any case, Ransone was the other standout for me. Jack Dylan Graser has a bright future ahead as he also delivered a great performance as young Eddie.

The end of the film was kind of weak, but the filmmakers must have been aware of it – given a running joke throughout. Again, the effects are great as are the lighting and direction. Overall, the story was satisfying and it was very easy to stay engaged throughout its nearly three-hour run time.

It’s a horror movie, I don’t recommend taking small children or those who are impressionable. But both of these movies transcend the horror drama. They’re just good, entertaining films that tell a story that is memorable and easy to relate as we all get a little scared sometimes.

Take care of yourself and thank you for reading.

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