Christopher Landon clearly heard the complaints, and his HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U serves as both a knowing wink and an improved thrill ride that will satisfy fans of the original. The downside, however, is the painfully weak third act threatening to ruin all of the fun.
[Side Note: If possible, watch both films back-to-back.]
Quite literally, Tree Gelbman (a still amazing Jessica Rothe) lives to see yet another day… but, this time, everything is thrown for a loop (last pun, I swear); and our returning heroes — plus a couple of new faces — are stuck trying to figure out what went wrong, and how to send Tree back home. “Home,” because, this time out, Tree finds herself waking up in an alternate reality (in a parallel dimension, or something). While the movie takes the time to clearly explain what’s going on, it’s best to remain silent and keep your hands and feet inside during the duration of the ride.
Depending upon your tastes, the departure from a horror comedy to more of a sci-fi comedy (at one point, the ‘baby mask killer’ plot is left on the back burner for quite some time) is either going to be a major plus or minus, but it feels like a much needed turn of events — it’s a sequel to a popcorn flick about a woman repeating the same day over and over, after all. Unfortunately, even with that change in direction, the movie begins to putter out around the one-hour mark; leaving a pointless (and rather silly) diversion to give us a proper feature-length runtime.
To its credit, HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U gets a lot of things right (especially when recreating scenes from the original), but it leaves way too much on the table. The box office-friendly PG-13 rating means the kills are just as lackluster as the original, and the horror aspect is all but reduced to dark hallways and ineffective jump scares. Rothe, once again, carries the film with a performance that, sadly, belongs in a slightly better movie.
[And, hopefully, that mid-credits scene — which feels like a POORLY done spoof — isn’t what the third movie will be.]
Three and a Half out of Five Beers.