Twenty-seven years ago, an evil clown feasted on the children of the remote town of Derry, Maine. A band of kids calling themselves The Losers Club beat the beast.
Or so they thought.
Now Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) is back.
But The Losers have grown up and dispersed. When they left home, they lost touch with each other and their summer of triumph. Now only Michael (Isaiah Mustafa) remembers the vow the group took decades ago. Knowing in his bones that the killer clown would appear again, Mike has remained in Derry to track the mythology behind Pennywise.
Now, as teens are devoured, he rounds up his friends and tries to jog their memories.
Most of The Losers have found success if not happiness. Bill (James McAvoy) is a promising writer who can’t seem to finish a book. Fabulously wealthy Bev (Jessica Chastain) is married to an abusive brute. Ben (Jay Ryan), finally conventionally attractive and successful, lives as a recluse. Richie (Bill Hader) is a famous standup but can’t make emotional connections. Eddie (James Ransone) has parlayed his crippling neurosis into a career as a fussy insurance adjustor. Stanley (Andy Bean) is living a quiet life with his loving wife.
Based on the half of Stephen King’s book that no one much likes, IT Chapter Two was perhaps doomed to disappoint. Director Andy Muschietti does not escape that fate. His sequel is bloated and not very scary. Even so, it’s better than the adult sections of the book.
Once again Muschietti curbs King’s tendency to overly complex, interdimensional plot devices. But Muschietti kept IT lean and metaphoric, while IT Chapter Two meanders at a turtle’s pace through themes of repressed trauma. At nearly three hours, this movie’s only suspense is whether your bladder makes it through the credits.
Worse, all the tension that kept the first film taut and thrilling must have been eaten by Pennywise, because it is now missing. Cheap CGI monsters, loud noises and jump scares are what you’ll get here.
When Muschietti allows his cast instead of the effects to do the work, the film picks up. Skarsgård is again delightfully unhinged. There’s also some absolutely great work from Hader as the emotionally repressed smartass who uses his caustic wit as armor. But even with great performances, scenes run too long.
Poor Horror • R • 169 mins.
~~~ New this Week ~~~
Theo Decker (Ansel Elgort) is set adrift after a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art kills his mother. Lonely and consumed by grief, he moves listlessly through a series of increasingly dangerous adventures while trying to find himself.
Can Theo escape his grief and guilt? Or is he doomed to a darker fate?
The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name is certainly high-profile source material for a movie. But, it can be difficult to adapt a deeply layered novel into a successful film. Themes must be cut for time; characters work on the page but not on the screen. This seems to be the fate of The Goldfinch.
Prospects: Dim • R • 149 mins.
Stripper Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) is tired of doing all the work while male bosses make all the money. Her clients are Wall Street investors who throw cash around. Why not take some of that money for herself?
With two other enterprising dancers, she concocts a scheme to steal credit cards from their wealthy clients. They see it as a victimless crime. But the FBI disagrees.
Based on a true story of savvy strippers who figured out a way to game an unfair system, Hustlers should be a fun caper flick. Think of it as Occupy Wall Street with fewer clothes. Lopez has long been seeking a role to break her out of rom-com purgatory, and this might be it.
Prospects: Bright • R • 109 mins.
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice
One of the most powerful voices of the 1960s, Linda Ronstadt became a musical sensation in her early 20s. In her long career, she tried out multiple genres, fought against misogyny in the music industry and made it her business to lift up other women musicians.
This documentary of her career, life and influence is a love letter to a folk rock icon and features interviews with Dolly Parton and Bonnie Raitt.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 95 mins.