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"HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U"
(2019) (Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Horror-Comedy: A college coed continues to relive the day she dies over and over again, only this time the day is repeating in a dimension where her late mother is still alive.
PLOT:
Ryan (PHI VU) wakes up in his car and heads on over to his college dorm room to find his roommate Carter (ISRAEL BROUSSARD) making out with his new girlfriend, Tree (JESSICA ROTHE) and still not allowed to come in. So, he heads to the campus science lab where he and his friends, Samar (SURAJ SHARMA) and Dre (SARAH YARKIN), are still trying to figure out a contraption the three have built that has caused random campus blackouts. Soon after Dean Bronson (STEVE ZISSIS) shuts it down and confiscates it, Ryan is stalked through the Science Building by a mask-wearing psycho and killed.

He then wakes up back in his car and is shocked to discover that the day has somehow re-set. He heads to the dorm room and instead of not disturbing Carter and Tree, he tells them about the trippy case of long déjà vu he's having. To his surprise, Tree knows exactly what he is talking about because she had just survived a cycle of 11 "death days" that she had lived over and over again that she broke only by killing her killer, her demented roommate Lori (RUBY MODINE).

Tree soon deduces that Ryan is now stuck in a time loop because of the science experiment he and his friends are doing in which they've tried to "slow down time." When the experiment fires again, Tree is thrown back to her original "death day" and is distraught. But she soon learns that all is not as it once seemed. This time, Lori is mentally stable; Lori is the one having an affair with Professor Butler (CHARLES AITKEN) and not Tree; Tree's college roommate, Danielle (RACHEL MATHEWS), is now dating Carter; and Tree's long-dead mother (actress' name not currently listed on IMBD) is miraculously alive.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
You know that classic scene in "Jerry Maguire" where Tom Cruise is trying to woo Renee Zellweger, to win her back after being a jerk. He goes into this long "You complete me" spiel, and she just tearfully cuts him off about two-thirds of the way through and tells him, "You had me at 'Hello!'" Well, "Happy Death Day 2U" had me at ... "alternative quantum realities multi-verse!"

Oh yeah. This one is for the Lt. Commander Data in all of us. If your chief complaint with the first "Happy Death Day" movie in 2017 was you never found out why the lead protagonist, plucky coed Tree Gelbman, kept repeating the same day over and over and over again, this movie answers that in the first 10 or 15 minutes with a loopy, time-loop explanation worthy of ... well ... "Looper!" I loved the route this flick takes in its first act, changing the rules, expanding a minor character from the first film (Phi Vu's loser Physics major Ryan), and just going full-on nerd.

Yes, yes. Horror-thriller fans will get their fill of masked, knife-wielding killers stalking frightened prey in darkened corners of university buildings. The slasher part this time around is the film's weakest element. It's almost as if writer-director Christopher Landon felt obligated to revisit that key part of the first film. And when we get into temporal anomaly territory where one dimension is different from the other, yet each one has a masked killer ... it gets more than a little silly and far-fetched.

Landon isn't quite as clever as he thinks he is here. But I applaud him for taking his sequel in a different direction than just a simple rehash of the first film. He could easily have jettisoned the entire first film and its cast of survivors and started fresh with the same gimmick and premise in another setting. Rinse and repeat. But he didn't do that. He sought to expand on the first film. And you get the sense that he really loves Jessica Rothe's Tree (I would if I was still in college ... heck, even in my single 20s), Vu's Ryan, Israel Broussard's good-hearted boyfriend Carter, Rachel Mathews' vapid Danielle, and so forth. Truth be told, it's the likability of the young actors that propels this sequel past its numerous lapses in logic more than any cool kill or plot contrivance.

"Happy Death Day 2U" also has a beating heart, with some of the best scenes between Tree and her mother -- a woman who was dead in her original timeline, but lives here. Eventually, Tree has to make a choice between closing the time loop and going back to her real life where her mom is dead and Carter loves her or stay in the new reality where her mom lives and Carter is with someone else. The actors do good work here. Better than these type of films usually get actually.

And, of course, geek that I am, I delighted in all of the films and TV shows -- mostly of the 1980s and early '90s era -- that this flick clearly takes inspiration from. The "Back to the Future" movies are directly referenced. But I also recognized flicks like "Real Genius" and "Weird Science" and TV shows like "Sliders" and (of course) "Star Trek: The Next Generation" mixed within its DNA.

I wish "Happy Day Death 2U" was better, and maybe Landon bringing in a bona fide sci-fi scripter to tighten up the story would have been an enormous plus. But as it is, I was entertained throughout and give this sequel a positive 6 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed February 11, 2019 / Posted February 13, 2019


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