The recent post I did on beloved 80s horror-comedy Gremlins hinted that a review of the sequel was forthcoming, so here it is.
First off, I mentioned that Gremlins 2: The New Batch belongs to that rare breed of sequel that surpasses the original. Much like the follow up to another little picture that could from the 80s, Gremlins 2 improves upon its predecessor, and it does so for similar reasons.
The original Gremlins is the perfect example of a movie that shouldn’t have worked, yet somehow did despite itself. Director Joe Dante was keenly aware of the first film’s deficiencies. As a matter of fact, the reason we had to wait six years for the sequel was that Dante held out for full creative control.
There are two general types of directors: craftsmen of clear vision and steady hand who are only encumbered by studio meddling, and big idea dreamers whose flights of fancy lose cohesion without a strong producer to rein them in.
Joe Dante fits firmly into the former category. Warner Bros. let him make Gremlins 2 the way he wanted it to be made, and his workmanship shines through in the final product.
Here is a list, in no particular order, of the ways in which Gremlins 2 is superior to its predecessor:
- Watching Gremlins, one gets the sense that it never quite figured out what it wanted to be. Not so Gremlins 2, which maintains a consistent comedy-horror mood (heavy on the comedy) throughout.
- The first film’s lack of a clear protagonist with a readily identifiable goal is solved early in the first act of Gremlins 2. Billy Peltzer wants to earn enough money to marry Kate. Simple and compelling.
- Because it lacked a protagonist with a clear goal, the ending of Gremlins doesn’t bring closure to the problems the characters had before the Gremlin attack. Instead, the town is left in ruins, and many characters are seriously injured or dead. Yes, Mrs. Deagle met a karmic death before she could foreclose on her poor tenants, but their houses probably burned down, anyway. At the end of Gremlins 2, Billy lands a lucrative deal with a real estate tycoon after helping to save his billion-dollar brand. Money problems solved!
- A minor but important point: Dante had wanted to open the original Gremlins with a classic Bugs Bunny cartoon, but the deal fell through. He made up for it in Gremlins 2 with a new Looney Tunes short directed by Chuck Jones.
- Having been made six years later, you’d expect Gremlins 2 to have better special effects than the first movie, and you’d be right. The creature effects take the cake with some truly creative designs.
- The vital inclusion of Sir Christopher Lee.
- Not only does Billy get a full plot arc complete with a satisfying payoff, so does almost every supporting character.
- Gremlins 2 pulls off the difficult comedic trick of lampshading its own nonsensical rules without undermining the audience’s suspension of disbelief.
- Hulk Hogan cameo, Andy Kaufman style.
- Genuinely funny--as is the first one, but Gremlins 2 is primarily a comedy--and comedy takes greater technical mastery to execute properly than any other genre. The Canadian restaurant brings me new sources of hilarity on every viewing.
There’s also the little detail that brings us full circle and almost qualifies this as a high strangeness post: A deleted scene from Gremlins 2 prefigured the Trump presidency over a quarter century before the fact. Skip to 3:30.
Gremlins 2: It’s even better than the first one. It holds up. Give it another watch!
Originally published here.