“HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U” is the sequel to 2017’s surprise hit “Happy Death Day”. Christopher Landon is back to direct, as well as write this script this time. The returning cast are back in their roles, headlined by the always charismatic Jessica Rothe. The story picks up right after the events of the last movie and continues on from there. I don’t want to give away any potential spoilers by telling you what the story-line is about as I felt many layers to it were fun and unsuspected surprises. I wouldn’t say this was a blow-your-mind type of movie. I would though confidently say it was a successful sequel that resulted in an engaging, ninety-minute mental escape.
It was not just a retread of the last film. It didn’t simply reply on what worked the first time either. It showed continual effort in expanding the world of the story and the charm of the dialogue, which I had a great time with. While watching, it felt like it was routinely challenging itself to be more creative and unexpected and I appreciated that because it felt fresh when it very easily could not have. The ambition was very energetic, and it resulted in a wildly unpredictable story. With strong splashes of campy cheese, some dashes of heartfelt sincerity, heavy doses of humor, and a touch of the horror genre as well. It had many layers to it, and took many different turns without ever feeling forced which is an accomplishment for a movie like this.
The balance of different dynamics that this movie gives, added with a story that is constantly forward moving plot-wise made this an enjoyable watch. It delivers some well-crafted moments of suspense, strong laughs, and very capable performances for a genre film like this which all worked together nicely to capture my imagination. By already knowing the characters and the basic foundation of the plot from the prior film it allows this one to get going quickly. The tension is built almost immediately and from there as the viewer we are right back in the middle of the story. Consumed by the atmosphere of the world it’s set in and back with these familiar characters. All of which for me is what made this a charming film to watch.
It has a constant energy to it that grabbed me. It was subtly able to build my curiosity, have me invested, and surprisingly interested in what would happen in the third-act. Another positive that grabbed my attention was the cast. With the core trio returning the chemistry was already there between them and in my opinion even stronger from being able to build off the last film. It allowed for a smooth addition of new characters to plug in nicely making them feel like a natural part of the group. Their timing was genuine, the personality in each one was noticeable when it needed to be, and they created a collection of characters that you can connect with more than the usual players we see in college-based horror flicks. Something I think was vital for a sequel that instead of focusing on increasing the violence and killing, was focused on more of the comedic beats and character interactions.
A bold move that certainly worked for the story because I think Jessica Rothe was excellent once again in the lead. She was able to provide an endless string of animated expressions and her physical acting complemented her dialogue delivery perfectly. We’re pulled right back into her life, but things are much different this time. Her character was different in many aspects as well. And I felt Rothe captured this growth and added self-awareness with humor, intensity, emotion, and whatever else the story needed from her. She had a constant energy in her performance which made me compelled to see how this story would end and I definitely think she showed a strong effort.
On the downside, while I did enjoy much of the humor this script was able to craft, and the delivery of the material from the performances. I would have liked a slightly stronger emphasis on the killing. This was far from a horror movie at times which I feel is a commendable direction to take things. But there were just too many long stretches where the movie felt lacking a focal tone all together. It wasn’t quite to the point of being a college comedy. Not quite to the point of being a college dramedy. Not quite to the level of horror for a college slasher film either. It also adds some elements of science-fiction that I am not sure will work for everyone. This part of the story got an eye-roll but didn’t hinder the film for me. With the suspension-of-disbelief already needed, what’s a little more. But other than that, this was a fun sequel that showed a ton of effort. I think it has a lot going for it to overshadow some of its weakness. And I certainly think it will be a good time if you enjoyed the first film, and want to see the continuation of this demented horror take on the Groundhog Day story trope.
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