Written and Directed by: Cristopher Landon
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Rachel Matthews, Suraj Sharma, Ruby Modine
Runtime: 120 min
Jessica Rothe leads the follow-up to Blumhouse's surprise 2017 smash hit of riveting, repeating twists and comic turns. This time, our hero Tree Gelbman (Rothe) discovers that dying over and over was surprisingly easier than the dangers that lie ahead. Jason Blum once again produces, and Christopher Landon returns to write and direct this next chapter.
I don’t have a Happy Death Day review online, but I agree with the adjectives above-mentioned. It was one of last year’s surprises, and I genuinely had great fun with it. Overall, I would have rated it a B/B+, in case you’re wondering. But let’s get to its sequel and find out if it stood up to the original’s level…
Short answer: no. Not even close. Honestly, it even diminishes what the first one accomplished. The 2017 original flick was a refreshing surprise because it took a different concept and mixed a bunch of genres in an unexpectedly entertaining way. It was funny, imaginative and Jessica Rothe proved to be a star in the making. 2U just has Rothe. That’s it. Its comedy bits only worked a couple of times throughout the whole runtime, and there wasn’t a single scary sequence that didn’t remind me of thousands of other familiar scenes done better in other films.
This movie is simply an easy money-grab, and BlumHouse doesn’t mind if it doesn’t stand up to the original as long as it succeeds in the box office, which it already did. Unfortunately, that’s how Hollywood and the world of cinema works nowadays. If an unique and even risky film, one that was only planned to be a single installment, becomes a box office hit, chances are that a sequel is going to be produced, even if it has to wrongly retcon what happened in the original movie, consequently taking some of its value. This rarely works quality-wise, but I can’t deny that, as a marketing strategy, it’s very profitable for studios.
My main issue with Happy Death Day 2U is that it risks too much with no reasonable payoff. Story-wise, it has tons of logical incongruencies, and I don’t buy the ending, at all. Christopher Landon asks too much of the audience since we have to accept so much nonsense in order to actually enjoy the film. In the original movie, the only thing we needed to “go with” was the actual concept, but that was pretty clear from the get-go. In 2U, there’s a compelling and captivating moral dilemma at its core, but that same dilemma becomes less and less like one by the end of it. It’s still a complicated situation, but it’s like they forgot what was really important and went with other poorly explained route.
It doesn’t matter the genre from which you analyze this film. If you look at it as a comedy, you’ll barely laugh. If you think of it as a scary movie, you’ll never get scared. If you want to be intrigued by who the killer is this time around, you won’t be because the mystery is pretty straightforward. I really don’t want to rant on this film because I do love its cast and I really enjoyed the first movie, but it’s really hard not to be upset since it damages an eventual second viewing of the first one now. When the original installment doesn’t have an open door to other adventures, just don’t try to make a sequel for the sake of it. I know, I know… Money. Bah.
I don’t want to end this review on a sad note, so I left the brilliant cast to the end. Everyone is fantastic, and I hope that at least this film can catapult some of these actors into the spotlight, especially Jessica Rothe. She has a tremendous range of expressions and incredible ease in changing between emotions. She can look scared, sad and happy in a matter of seconds, with tears and all. She’s a full package. I hope that she can grab either a major role on a big TV series or a supporting role in a blockbuster or Oscar-bait movie in the next couple of years. Surely, Jason Blum has some plans for her.
All in all, Happy Death Day 2U does not deserve the box office success that it is having. It’s receiving a lot of credit due to the 2017 original’s surprise hit, and that’s unfair to the first installment. This sequel not only wrongly retcons unnecessary plot details of its predecessor, but it makes that correction its main plot, continuously reminding the audience that we just have to accept it. It’s not as funny, scary, unique or surprisingly entertaining as the original, and if the returning cast didn’t deliver strong performances, this would be one of the worst films of the year. Fortunately, there are a couple of good moments here and there, and Jessica Rothe alone saves the movie from a much more negative review.
Oh, and please, do NOT make a third one! Just leave it alone.