Movie Review - Happy Death Day 2U

Happy Death Day was a surprise, hit film back in the fall of 2017. It was produced cheaply. Jason Blum and his company Blumhouse Productions paid $5 million for it. It ended up making quintuple that number on its opening weekend and becoming #1 in the box office. It went on to make $125 million worldwide, which is a lot considering what its budget was. If you consider slasher flicks to be its own film genre, then Happy Death Day almost made enough to crack the top ten of that particular genre. Therefore, making a sequel would be an easy yes for Blumhouse. There's only one problem.

Happy Death Day wasn't just your typical slasher flick. It had a twist. It was a horror version of Groundhog Day (1993). The question is how does one make a sequel to that 1993 comedy. Its premise is that a person is caught in a time loop in which he or she keeps reliving the same day over and over until they accomplish something. In Happy Death Day, what had to be accomplished is figuring out the identity of a serial killer. The movie accomplished that. It unmasked the killer and then killed said killer, so how do you follow up that?

Writer-director Christopher Landon (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) has decided to follow up that premise with the use of science-fiction and way more humor. His film is actually leading the charge for what will seemingly be a common theme this year. In cinema, it will be the year of the alternate dimensions or what's called "the multiverse" or multiple universes. One notable example is the film that won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature this year and that's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Without spoiling them by even speaking their names, there are a couple more films that may or may not be comic book films that also dabble with this whole multiverse thing. Even the teen romantic comedy The Sun Is Also A Star also mentions the multiverse.

For films and a lot of TV shows that deal with time travel, the multiverse is the next step. For this film, it can relive the same day and solve the same mystery, but it does so in an alternate dimension, one that's similar to the one we know but is slightly different. Specifically, in the alternate dimension, the serial killer is not the same person as it was in the previous film. Yet, even solving that new mystery is invariably too easy, given that the protagonist here has too much knowledge at her disposal. Landon, therefore, makes the murder mystery the B-plot of this narrative. The A-plot or the main plot involves instead grappling with the idea of choosing to live in an alternate dimension or not.

Jessica Rothe (Forever My Girl and La La Land) stars as Tree Gelbman, a college student at Bayfield University. She's a member of a sorority and is a girl who likes to party. Her mother died some time ago and she misses her. On the morning of her birthday, possibly her 21st birthday, she wakes up in the dorm room of a guy she's never met. She goes to her sorority house where she gets into a squabble about her dating a married man and her professor. That night, on her way to a party, she's murdered by a person wearing a mask of a huge baby-face.

At the moment of her murder or at the moment of her death, time is reversed and she's taken back to the dorm room where she wakes up to relive the whole thing over and over again. Like Groundhog Day, there was no explanation as to why she was reliving the same day over and over. It just happened, seemingly by magic. She simply had to accept that she was in a time loop and the only goal was figuring out how to break it. For Tree, breaking the loop meant solving the murder mystery and killing the killer.

Phi Vu plays Ryan Phan, the roommate of the guy whose dorm room in which Tree wakes up. In an exciting twist, the film opens with him stuck in a time loop experiencing the same thing that Tree experienced. If the film had simply continued down that path and had the film center around Ryan, that would have been an interesting departure. Instead, it's revealed that Ryan and his friends have invented a time machine, which is responsible for the time loop, but it also is responsible for pushing Tree into an alternate dimension.

Unfortunately, introducing this time machine and this science-fiction aspect only creates more questions and contradictions that it really didn't need. Yes, there's a time machine, but there's never any explanation as to why Tree was caught in the time-loop despite being nowhere near the time machine. It then never explains why Ryan gets caught in a time-loop but no one else is. It also doesn't explain why Tree is blown into an alternate dimension but she never encounters her alternate self. There's never any scene where there's two of her. These questions make it hard to accept this new plot, but that's not the point.

Ultimately, Landon would rather the audience suspends disbelief and focus on what is the true dilemma. Tree is in an alternate dimension where her mother Julie, played by Missy Yager, is alive. However, Tree's boyfriend Carter, played by Israel Broussard, is no longer interested in her. The dilemma is where she wants to live. Does she want to live in a world where her mom is dead but she has her loving boyfriend or does she want a world where her mom is alive but her boyfriend wants nothing to do with her?

That's an interesting dilemma that Landon handles rather well given the plot and premise constantly spinning things around. What really dominates though is the comedy that Landon injects into this film. It's not to say there wasn't comedy in the previous film, but the volume of that comedy is increased to ridiculous degrees here. There's a whole sequence of a girl pretending to be blind that simply felt too unnecessary and not all that funny the longer it went on. I would have preferred if the film leaned into the drama instead.

Rated PG-13 for violence, language and sexual material.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 40 mins.

Available on DVD.


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