The second part of this modern adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 tome is extremely well done in some ways, and incredibly messy in others. First off, the nearly 3-hour running time is downright inexcusable: There’s something to be said for brevity and economical storytelling but you won’t find any of that here. Some scenes go on forever and some feel unnecessary, while others feel incomplete – for instance, the movie opens with a brutal hate crime that doesn’t tie back to the narrative other than tangentially, and quickly follows it with a graphic scene of spousal abuse before dropping the topic entirely. Director Andy Muschietti also a tendency to drop Isaiah Mustafa’s Mike from the narrative for long periods of time, while there’s an overabundance of focus on the other characters during an interminable middle stretch that throws off the tone. Muschietti seems torn between completing the story introduced in the 2017 predecessor or scaring his audience instead, and as a result he decides to have it both ways: There are a number of unnecessary inclusions that feel like separate horror vignettes, with an overabundance of CGI and jump scares distracting from the narrative. However, it’s hard to dismiss the movie entirely, because it’s so well-acted by a terrific cast that shares remarkable chemistry all around. Bill Hader and James Ransone emerge as stand-outs thanks to a crowd-pleasing interplay of temperaments, and they’re surrounded by other strong, winning performances all around. The aforementioned chemistry among the characters is what elevates the movie above its more glaring flaws, because the dynamics are compelling and well-established early on, which raises the stakes. Ultimately, Muschietti’s movie works best when it focuses on the bond between its central characters, but his pesky habit of separating them for the purposes of individual spook scenes ends up damaging the tone and pace. A judicious editing job to trim the fat and reduce the movie by a full hour would likely improve the finished product, but as it is, it’s a flawed but often compelling effort.
Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)