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Non-Review Review: IT – Chapter Two

IT: Chapter Two is muddled, messy and bloated, particularly in its middle stretch.

The horror sequel opens relatively strong and delivers a satisfying emotional pay-off. Unfortunately, the film’s structure means that it meanders wildly between those two fixed narrative points. Chapter Two runs a muscular two-hours-and-fifty-minutes, a full quarter-of-an-hour longer than the original film’s already impressive run time. In fact, taken together, the two films are more than one-and-a-half times the length of the early nineties miniseries adaptation of the novel. Chapter Two spends a lot of time on repetitive storytelling beats, splitting up the cast so each of the leads has their own identically-structured adventure.

Glowing, glowing… gone.

These structural flaws feel inevitable. Part of what worked so well with IT: Chapter One was the decision to largely eschew the complicated and convoluted mythology that King wove through his beloved doorstopper of a novel. The original film was not concerned with alien invaders or local legends beyond what was strictly necessary, allowing it to offer an extended horror movie riff on Stand by Me, a coming-of-age saga about young teens on the cusp of adulthood. In Chapter Two, that bill comes due. The sequel not only has to do its own heavy lifting, but take on a lot of the world-building the original film mostly ignored.

Indeed, there is a sense that Chapter Two works much better as a companion piece to the earlier film than as a narrative in its own right. Indeed, there is something interesting in the way that, taken as a whole, the two IT films represent the first real cinematic glimpse of Stephen King as an author of the American epic. IT is the story of a group of childhood friends facing a monstrous evil, but it feels much larger than that. Perhaps the most compelling thing about Chapter Two is the manner in which it creates a sense of scale and scope that has previous eluded adaptations of King’s work.

Pennywise, pound foolish.

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Non-Review Review: Trainwreck

Trainwreck is a refreshing romantic comedy, a collaboration that plays to the strengths of both lead and writer Amy Schumer and director Judd Apatow. The comedy follows a young woman who learnt from an early age (through inappropriate doll metaphors) that “monogamy doesn’t work.” Amy is very much a female version of the arrested adolescent character that Apatow helped to popularise in mainstream American comedy, the immature adult who has yet to face any real personal or professional responsibility.

In some respects, Trainwreck is a continuation of a comedy trend that began with Bridesmaids, realising that male characters did not hold a monopoly on emotional disaster zones. Female characters are just as likely to exercise poor judgment and make questionable personal decisions. If Apatow figured out how to keep the romantic comedy fresh by tweaking the mental age and emotional stability of the male lead, then his collaboration with Schumer does something similar by swapping the gender dynamics.

Hold me.

Hold me.

The basic character and emotional arcs have not changed. After all, the romantic comedy can really only have one of two outcomes; they live happily ever after, or they don’t. Trainwreck charts the same course as The 40-Year Old Virgin or Knocked Up, which basically followed the same arcs as When Harry Met Sally or Sleepless in Seattle. For all the novelty of swapping the gender roles in the Apatowian comedy, Trainwreck is not particularly subversive or deconstructive.

Rather, Trainwreck is a stellar execution of a very traditional form. It is not a comedy that defies conventions or upsets expectations; it hits virtually every major beat that story like this can be expected to hit. It benefits from a rather wonderful collaboration of a writer (and actress) with a sharp eye for millennial humour working alongside a director who understands the mechanics of the genre intuitively. Trainwreck is perhaps the best mainstream romantic comedy that Hollywood has produced in quite some time.

Everything is on track...

Everything is on track…

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Non-Review Review: Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is like an extended visual sugar hit. There’s always something happening, the characters seem in perpetual motion, and there’s never a moment where the audience is allowed to catch up. A technicolour marvel, there’s an endearing energy to all this, allowing the plot’s riff on classic monster movies (from King Kong to Jurassic Park) to become infectiously enjoyable. There are moments where the movie almost seems too sweet and too insubstantial, but they are only fleeting – there’s another neat visual gag, corny pun, or exciting slapstick joke only ever seconds away.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is hardly food for the soul, but it’s certainly a satisfying meal.

A berry good idea...

A berry good idea…

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