Blumhouse Productions/Universal Pictures
Written and Directed by Christopher Landon
Produced by Jason Blum
Based on characters created by Scott Lobdell
Cinematography by Toby Oliver
Edited by Ben Baudhuin
Music by Bear McCreary
One thing I love about the two “Happy Death Day” movies is that they are not ashamed of or try to hide the earlier movies that influence them. In the first movie, one character says to another that the bizarre situation Our Heroine Teresa ‘Tree’ Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is stuck in is straight out of “Groundhog Day.” In this one, halfway through HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U one character tells Tree that she’s in the same situation Marty McFly found himself in “Back To The Future II.” The joke is that Tree is mindbogglingly ignorant of pop culture. In the first movie she didn’t even know who Bill Murray was and in this one she has no idea of what the “Back To The Future” movies were about. Which reminds me to remind you to keep your eyes out for the “Back To The Future” in-jokes.
But when the movie starts it isn’t Tree who has the problem. It’s Ryan Phan (Phi Vu). Remember the Asian roommate of Carter Davis (Israel Broussard) who kept busting in on Tree and Carter in the first movie? Well, the same situation that happened to Tree is happening to him. He keeps reliving the same day over and over and just like Tree is being killed over and over by the killer wearing a baby-face mask. But unlike Tree, Ryan finds a solution to his problem. Turns out that Ryan is a supergenius who has been experimenting with his own homemade quantum reactor along with his partners Samar (Suraj Sharma) and Dre (Sarah Yarkin) who are just as brilliantly nerdy as he is. It’s the quantum reactor that caused Tree to be stuck in a time loop and now it’s affecting Ryan. An attempt by Ryan to fix the quantum reactor results in the creation of an alternate timeline. One in which Tree finds herself once again having to relive her birthday over and over again but this time, there’s somebody new wearing the Babyface Killer mask and she not only has to find out who he/she is but get back to her original timeline.
No doubt you’re saying “WTF?” right about now and that’s valid because thirty minutes into HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U I was saying the same thing. But with a goofy grin on my face. Because I loved how this sequel wasn’t afraid to up it’s game and go for broke. It’s a movie that has tons of fun with its premise and the sudden left turn into science fiction is unexpected but the director/writer and his cast are determined to make it work and damn if they don’t. It’s still early in the year but so far, the most entertaining movies I’ve seen in the theater have been sequels and HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U is one of them.
Once again Jessica Rothe is a standout, switching back and forth between comedy and drama just like that (Derrick snaps his fingers) and being adept at both of them. She doesn’t have to carry as much of the movie on her back this time around. Writer/Director Christopher Landon (Michael Landon’s son) wisely gives the rest of the cast plenty to do, especially Rachel Matthews as Tree’s best frenemy Danielle who walks off with the movie’s MVP Award.
The movie delivers on the suspense part with The Babyface Killer stalking the campus of Bayfield University. We’re not talking Hitchcock level suspense here but it’s enough to keep Tree occupied in between her figuring how to navigate in this new timeline where there’s the best reason of all for her to want to stay. The movie also delivers on the comedy. It’s not afraid to have some fun with the absurdity of the situation and Tree’s increasing frustration as she has to once again be subjected to being killed over and over and over and over again but this time at her own hand. Yep, you read that right. Go see the movie to see how that bizarre twist comes about.
Be sure that you stick around for the end credits as there’s a stinger that sets up a third entry in the series that promises to once again up the ante and get even crazier and I’m on board. HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U is a sequel that goes out of its way to be more entertaining than the first and to not just be a rehash of the previous movie. It expands on the premise of the first and does so with wit, humor and charm, fueled by really good performances from the entire cast who look like they were having just as much fun making the movie as I was watching it. Highly Recommended.