Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

*. I liked Happy Death Day. It didn’t make me want a sequel though. I thought it was driven by an idea that didn’t need any further development. Why was Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) having to relive the day of her death over and over again? I don’t remember that being a question I ever bothered asking myself.
*. Well, if you were looking for an explanation you’ll get something along those lines here. Apparently it has to do with a demographically diverse trio of nerdy lab rats performing a physics experiment that opens different channels in the multiverse. No, it does not make sense. None at all. There’s no point even trying to figure it out. But it’s what we’re given.
*. One thing this means is that Happy Death Day 2U is more a science fiction film than a thriller. And, as it turns out, more a romantic comedy than a thriller as well. Or, as Mark Kermode put it, instead of Groundhog Day meets Scream it’s Revenge of the Nerds meets Back to the Future (or actually Back to the Future Part II, but who’s counting?).
*. Which is all to the good, I think. Writer-director Christopher Landon wasn’t interested in just doing the same thing all over again (though that would be kind of fitting, given the premise). Instead he really opened the idea up and took it in a new direction.
*. It even started out winning me over, and I was entirely on board with it through the first act (though they missed an easy trick by not developing the scene where Ryan is stuck in a crowd of college kids wearing the killer’s baby mask). Then, I’m sorry to say, the wheels fell off. The entire middle part of the movie gets bogged down in schmaltz as Tree has to decide whether to stay in a new timeline where her mother is still alive or go back to the one where her mother is dead so that she can be with her boyfriend. Her mother helps her out with lines like this: “Well, we all have to make hard choices, Tree. That’s life. And sometimes the past is pulling us in one direction and the future is calling us somewhere new.”
*. All of a sudden a fun game of Time-Travel Twister turns into a rollercoaster of eye rolls. Sentiment has no place in a movie like this. The final act does take us through a couple of extra twists that aren’t bad, but getting there is a chore and the resolution, which has to do with Tree and her trio of nerds finding the right algorithm, is just thrown at us at the end. Of course every time-travel movie involves us in the same paradoxes, but nothing interesting is done with that material here. The time machine is just a prop or McGuffin.

*. I wish I could say I liked this more. And to be fair it’s not a bad movie. But it ends up being all over the place, and a mid-credit scene at the end doesn’t bode well for where they may be going with a third instalment. One feels the need for more direction when entering the multiverse.
*. I don’t want to end on a down note so I’ll conclude with a shout out to the cheerleader dressed as the Bayfield Baby at the basketball game. He (or she) is only on screen for a couple of seconds, but still manages to make a great impression by leading the crowd with what I take is their signature move of drinking from a giant milk bottle as though they’re chugging a beer (or maybe performing a blowjob). That was an inspired performance that I don’t remember seeing anywhere in the first film and it got my biggest laugh. Go Baby!

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