Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

gremlins 2 IMDb

I really admire this film. It takes a brave filmmaker to completely change the tone of a sequel when compared to the original. Gremlins 2 almost feels like a spoof of the original. Where the first film was criticized for being too scary for children, yet marketed directly at them, this sequel is definitely more of a comedy, and I find it far more entertaining than its predecessor.

The film opens a few years after the events of the first film, Billy (Zach Galligan) and his now fiancée Kate (Phoebe Cates) are now living in New York, both working in a state of the art office building run by eccentric billionaire, Daniel Clamp (John Glover). Billy happens upon his old pet mogwai, Gizmo, while walking through the building. Gizmo had been taken into a science lab for studying when his old Chinese owner’s shop was destroyed. Billy takes Gizmo back to his desk and leaves him there while he works, hoping to take him home at the end of the day. Obviously the three rules are broken yet again, chaos ensues and ugly little gremlins start taking over the office building causing much disruption. Billy and Kate have to convince their sceptical work mates that these gremlins are real, and if they don’t get them under control by the time the sun goes down, they’ll be able to start causing trouble all over New York, rather than just being confined to one office building.

This is a very smart film. It feels like something Mel Brooks might make. It pokes fun at nearly every criticism of the first film, in particular, the three rules that are just so easy to poke holes through. There is also a lot of random humour. There is one scene where the film actually stops working, and Hulk Hogan has to threaten the gremlins to put it back on before he loses his temper. I like these little shout outs to the audience, it’s silly comedy, but still quite funny. Another of my favourite scenes was having famous critic Leonard Maltin be filmed reviewing the first film. Maltin gave the first film a terrible review and this is spoofed in the sequel. While delivering his scathing review, Maltin is attacked by gremlins. Maltin had a much better appreciation for the sequel, obviously.

One of the best parts of the sequel was the new gremlins they create. At one stage, the gremlins find themselves in a science lab and start drinking all of the potions they find. This turns them into all sorts of oddball gremlins. My favourite being the talking gremlin, voiced by Tony Randall. This super smart gremlin is one of the film’s highlights, with terrific voice work from Randall.

I prefer this film so much over the original. I love that it is able to poke fun at the original, but still tell a new story. Most films would not have the guts to tear down the successful original, but Gremlins 2 manages to do so with class and a lot of laughs.

Rating: B

As much as I did not enjoy Gremlins, I have to say that Gremlins 2 is actually quite clever. Everything that made the original so ridiculous and melodramatic is parodied here to great effect. It’s still not a movie I’d care to see again, but at least this movie doesn’t take itself too seriously.

As with the original, I can’t really figure out who the target audience of Gremlins 2 is supposed to be. It’s still too scary for (a lot of) kids, and not scary enough for teens. There’s broader humor that would appeal to small children, but the truly funny and clever stuff would go right over their heads. It’s definitely not a family friendly fantasy romp that should try to reach a wide audience, so the question remains: who is this for? It seems like the filmmakers again failed to address this issue.

Still, what Gremlins 2 does best is completely satire the ridiculousness of its predecessor. The infamous three rules that outline how to care for a mogwai are dissected to great effect; Phoebe Cates is given another monologue detailing the gruesome death of a family member, but this time it’s played for laughs; movie reviewer Leonard Maltin, who hated Gremlins, appears in a cameo where he reiterates his negative review of the first movie. These self-referential jokes are a lot of fun. My favorite is when the film breaks the fourth wall, as the gremlins stop the movie projector, causing Hulk Hogan to yell at them to put the movie back on. There is also some delightful voice work from Tony Randall, who plays Brain, a gremlin who has become genetically enhanced and becomes the leader of the lizard monsters.

Even with an improved sense of humor, Gremlins 2 falls flat for me. The story quickly falls to the wayside and is given up to a succession of gags and in-jokes. The special effects are for the most part better, but still dull compared to what was being done even a few years later. Celebrity cameos and the inclusion of classic Looney Tunes characters were inspired choices, but not enough to save this movie.

Rating: C-

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