After speeding through the adult Losers’ Club set-up, the movie slows down to catch its breath when reintroducing their younger selves — Bill, Beverly (Sophia Lillis), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Mike (Chosen Jacobs), and Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) — in an underground clubhouse sequence not depicted in the first movie.
The young Losers may only play a supporting role in It Chapter Two, but they cast a long shadow over the entire film. While the adult Losers are all effective in their own ways, they never quite resonate like their teen counterparts. Seeing kids confront their respective traumas is just inherently more compelling than seeing their otherwise accomplished and well-adjusted adult selves face similar challenges.
That the film lets the scenes with the kids breathe while hurrying through most of the scenes with the adults certainly suggests which set of characters director Andy Muschietti and his screenwriters’ hearts truly belong to. The best sequence with the adult Losers is the fan favorite Chinese restaurant reunion because it allows the characters to just be, for us to get a sense of who they are in the proverbial calm before the storm.
As an ensemble, the adult Losers all have an easy chemistry and humor together that sells their affection for one another. Of the adult Losers, Bill Hader proves to be the show-stealer as Richie, whose ball-busting banter with nebbish Eddie provides some of the film’s biggest laughs, and ultimately the most heart. (The film’s character-driven humor works far better than the jarring, Evil Dead-style gags used during what are supposed to be scary moments.) Jessica Chastain is solid as Bev — whose previous exposure to the Deadlights provides her with a far deeper connection to the unfolding horrors than the others — as is James McAvoy as Bill, whose resurfaced guilt over Georgie leads him on a desperate side quest to save a neighborhood boy from Pennywise.
The adult Mike gets saddled with nearly all the exposition, which Isaiah Mustafa still sells with sincerity even when the mythology veers into cosmic cheesiness. James Ransone and Jay Ryan get their respective moments to shine, with Ransone capturing Eddie’s anxiety and fear, while Ryan leans into Ben’s unspoken and unrequited affection for Bev. They may not be the most well known actors in the adults’ ensemble, but they meet their roles’ respective challenges with skill.
A good portion of the movie’s midsection sees the adult Losers split up to retrieve tokens from their childhood needed for their looming ritualistic showdown with Pennywise. Their various missions incorporate flashbacks to new scenes set during the summer of ‘89, but with the exception of one character, the information we learn about the protagonists isn’t new or particularly revealing. And at nearly three hours, such long stretches with repetitive information and callbacks to the previous film just add to the sequel’s bloat and erratic pacing. The film slows down to tell you a lot of stuff you already knew before whipping itself back into a frenzy for the final battle against Pennywise.
On the plus side, It Chapter Two engineers a number of truly unsettling and macabre set-pieces but the film relies far more on CGI and jump scares than even its predecessor did. And some of these CG monsters aren’t particularly well done. The best and scariest sequences in Chapter Two are the ones that feel real or use largely practical effects. A CG monster is simply less frightening than a tactile threat.