Despite covering only one bit of an extremely lengthy book, the 2017 initial installment in Muschietti's saga felt strangely complete, updating the action from the 1950s to the 1980s and focusing solely on the Losers as kids, portrayed by the likes of Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, and Jaeden Martell. Chapter Two casts grown-up versions of Richie, Bev, and Bill -- played by Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain, and James McAvoy, respectively -- but refuses to let childhood go completely, interspersing numerous flashbacks that seems to reiterate what was previously covered in just a slightly different manner.
The caliber of the new cast is invariably the draw of the sequel. Chastain is an Oscar nominee who had demonstrable chemistry with McAvoy in the 2014 indie The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby; meanwhile, Hader's Emmy-winning work on Barry has made him one of the most exciting actors on any screen. Still, by virtue of the storytelling, the adult actors aren't really allowed the chance to gel in the way their younger counterparts are, and thus the fun of watching them all together is dulled. Among the cast additions -- which also include Jay Ryan as Ben and James Ransone as Eddie -- Hader is the standout, bringing a twitchy energy to jokester Richie, who has grown up to be a hacky stand-up, peddling other people's jokes. But even he is hamstrung by Gary Dauberman's screenplay, which awkwardly veers between thrills, laughs, and serious exploration of topics like abuse and homophobia.
Whereas King's text spans the cosmos, dealing with his godlike turtle force known as Maturin, Muschietti chooses to keep the action grounded -- or at least as grounded as murderous clowns can be. The only hint of psychedelia comes in the form of the Ritual of Chüd, a way of defeating It handed down to Mike from a Native American tribe, represented in grossly stereotypical fashion. (Bizarrely, despite the fact that action now takes place in the present, the tone of Chapter Two seems grounded in the less-woke '80s.)