MOVIE BUFF-ET: ‘It Chapter 2’ delivers scares, ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ soars

Bill Skarsgård in It Chapter Two

Writer Thomas Wolfe coined the phrase “You can’t go home again,” and why would you want to if your hometown was Derry, Maine.

Derry is of course the fictional town where horror icon Stephen King set a number of his novels, including his 1986 bestseller “It.”

Director Andy Muschietti’s film adaptions “It” and “It Chapter 2” also feature the town that seems to be evil to its core, but still has a strange hold on the characters we met in the first film as kids, but are all grown up in the sequel.

The first film was a bigger hit in September of 2017 than Warner Bros. had expected, and “Chapter 2” is a long but still worthy successor thanks to a strong cast, deftly crafted characters, chilling violence, and several effective jump scares that got me even though I knew they were coming.

New In Local Movie Theaters

  • It Chapter 2(R) 2 hr. 49 min. (watch trailer)
  • Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Springdale Malco, Rogers Towne, Malco Pinnacle Hills, Bentonville Skylight

“It Chapter 2” is exactly the type of film that would have left me too scared to go to sleep as a kid with its aggressively creepy special effects and stunningly violent material. Few punches are pulled in this gross-out fest which doubles as a story about adults confronting fears. The movie opens with an all-too-real scene of a couple being beat up by bigoted punks outside a carnival and never let up detailing the more fantastic and nightmarish assaults that follow.

Muschietti crafted two jump scares that jolted me with their precise blend of sound and special effects, and crafty editing that featured starts Jessica Chastain and Bill Hader being psychically and seemingly physically attacked. They were so effective that the rest of the film seemed relatively tame in comparison.

King’s novel and the two films are scary because the fear is generated from a foundation of real-life terror many kids face each day from bullies and abusers at home, at school, and in every other walk of life.

Certainly the film exaggerates those fears and takes them to a super-natural level that becomes absurd, but that inkling of truth is how the screenplay by Gary Daubeman and the film digs its claws and sinks its fangs into you.

The plot is fairly simple. Twenty-seven years after the tween members of the Loser’s Club beat back It in the first film, they are called back to Derry to finish the job they started as kids by Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the lone member of the group who had not left Derry.

Chastain as Beverly, Hader as Richie, and James McAvoy as Ben are the film’s big-name stars, and they basically carry the film along with their younger counterparts Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, and Jaeden Martell respectively.

Bill Skarsgard also returns as Pennywise the Clown or It, and he’s every bit as icky as he was in the original, though it would be easy to argue he had better scenes in the first film.

The movie weaves key flashbacks to the each characters childhood to effectively tell the story. The film erodes a bit in the third act with some mumbo jumbo that sorta explains Pennywise’s origin. The actual fight to defeat the spider-like clown is a bit mundane and overlong.

However, I enjoyed the closure given to each character at the end, which ultimately made the film satisfying. Too many movies today skip that kind of closure.

Did the closure justify the 2-hour and 49-minute running time? I think so, but cuts probably could have been made elsewhere to shave a few minutes.

On the whole, the film is effective and maybe even a bit cathartic in its own horrific way.

(R) 2 hr. 49 min.
Grade: B

The Peanut Butter Falcon

Shia LeBeouf and Zack Gottsagen in The Peanut Butter Falcon

There’s only one new release in local theaters this week as film distributors opted to give “It Chapter 2” a wide berth at the box office.

If horror is not your thing, but you still want to go to the theater this week, I’d suggest “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” a dramedy that features Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson and introduces Zack Gottsagen, that’s flying a bit under the radar.

The movie is made by the producers of “Little Miss Sunshine,” and it won the Audience Award at South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin earlier this summer.

Yeah, I know, LaBeouf seems to be a first-class goof in real life, but he is talented and gives an down-to-earth performance in this excellent movie directed and written by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz that might remind you a little of a modern-day version of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

LaBeouf plays Tyler, an outlaw fisherman on the lam who is dealing with the tragic death of his mentor and brother. While attempting to escape a couple of fishermen he’s done wrong, Tyler finds Zak (Gottsagen) stowed away on his boat.

Zak is a 22-year-old orphaned man with Down Syndrome, who escaped from a retirement home in North Carolina to travel to the wrestling school of famous grappler The Saltwater Redneck in Florida so that he can train with his hero.

Tyler begrudging takes on Zak as his traveling companion, and their charming, touching, and hilarious adventures ensue.

Johnson plays Eleanor at worker at the retirement home who took a special interest in Zak and is tasked with finding him.

Bruce Dern as Zak’s roommate in the retirement home, Johnathan Hawkes as Tyler’s main adversary Duncan, and Thomas Hayden Church as The Saltwater Redneck lend outstanding support in this simple but delightful film. The movie is beautifully shot, good-hearted, and humorous throughout.

While I enjoy the big blockbusters just as much as anyone, “The Peanut Butter Falcon” stands as my favorite movie of the year so far.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 38 min.
Grade: A

Classic Corner – Horse Feathers

Groucho Marx in Horse Feathers

You either get the Marx Brothers or you don’t. However, you owe it to yourself to at least give them a try.

Turner Classic Movies offers that opportunity at 8:30 p.m. (CT) Friday with one their funniest films, “Horse Feathers.”

Certainly, the comedy of Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo is from a bygone age, but it’s hard not to chuckle at Groucho’s deadpan delivery, Chico’s street-wise cons, and Harpo’s wild antics.

“Horse Feathers” centers around Groucho, who plays the new head of Huxley College, attempting to hire ringers for the football team, but failing miserably by accepting no-talents like Chico and Harpo, who play bootleggers of sorts in the 1932 film that’s set during Prohibition.

Several of the Marx Brothers’ classic vaudeville gags are featured in the 68-minute comedy that depicts the roots of what we know as college football today. The climax of the movie is hilarious, playing out with the Huxley squad scoring the game-winning touchdown in a horse-drawn wagon.