Happy Death Day 2U
Updated: Feb 8, 2020
2017’s Happy Death Day was a fairly routine slasher movie with a fun gimmick that allowed it to set itself apart from a lot of its competitors. Its main character is stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque time loop where she is repeatedly murdered until she can figure out who her killer is. It had fun with its premise and did not take itself particularly seriously. It also made over $125 million worldwide off of a budget of around $5 million, which means it gets a sequel.
I was concerned there was not much more to do with the concept and it would just be a reworking of the first one. I was very wrong.
Happy Death Day 2U is far more ambitious than that. I talk about sequels building upon their predecessors all the time, but I am not sure I have ever seen one add so many new things to the original idea. Though not everything it does works, it was fun to watch it try.
Tree is a college student who eventually discovered her murderer and lived to see Tuesday morning. She also became a better person and fell in love along the way. This time, I do not want to give away too much, so I will just say that she gets trapped in another loop with even more complications and tries to use her previous experience to escape it.
The first one was a slasher movie with some humor and a little romance. This one leans much closer to comedy. The horror material is toned down significantly (though still present) and some sci-fi is included for good measure. It is a lot more difficult to classify this as horror. The slasher stuff is tertiary to what is going on in the story. This is mostly a plot-heavy comedy with a murder thrown in every once in a while. The world and its inhabitants have already been definitively set up. Now, not only can Christopher Landon (who directed both and handles screenwriting duties here as well) play around in it, he can also rearrange the elements. It is a flawed attempt, but a funny and entertaining one.
After Happy Death Day, I marveled at the ability of star Jessica Rothe to make Tree likable in a story where she was less important than the gimmick. As well as how she was able to convincingly navigate the comedy, horror, drama and romance. Happy Death Day 2U (91 minutes, plus a mid-credits scene) gives her even more of a workout. She is good at the funny stuff and the dramatic stuff. In the action scenes, she is more of an aggressor than a victim this time, which is a nice change of pace. Her biggest task is making the plot coherent. While I cannot quite connect all of the pieces, she did make me believe in the stakes Tree was dealing with. There is no way either of these movies work without her.
It is strange to see such a large shift in tone for a sequel to something that was pretty successful. Landon certainly does not play it safe with Happy Death Day 2U. Several of his bigger plot turns feel unfinished or irrelevant to Tree’s story. And the supporting characters are still completely uninteresting. I liked its “toss everything at the wall” style. It makes it stand apart, not just from its competitors, but also from the first entry in the series. If this is an ongoing franchise, I am curious to find out what wacky ideas will come next.
3¼ out of 5
Jessica Rothe as Tree Gelbman
Israel Broussard as Carter Davis
Phi Vu as Ryan Phan
Rachel Matthews as Danielle Bouseman
Suraj Sharma as Samar Ghosh
Sarah Yarkin as Andrea Morgan
Ruby Modine as Lori Spengler
Steve Zissis as Dean Roger Bronson
Charles Aitken as Gregory Butler
Written and Directed by Christopher Landon