Occasionally, a movie comes out and becomes a hit. Then it spawns a sequel you might not expect to be any good but shows there is plenty of stories left to tell. That’s the case with Happy Death Day 2U, the followup to 2017’s surprise success, Happy Death Day.
Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) learns the time loop that made her life hell, but also made her a stronger and better person, is the result of a science experiment gone wrong when one of her friends, Ryan (Phi Vu), winds up in a temporal crisis of his own. Realizing there are alternate dimensions and timelines, Tree and a group of STEM students have to figure out the right calculus to activate a quantum device, close all loops and put dimensions back in order.
Plus the pesky killer in the baby mask is back to wreak more havoc, meaning Tree has another mystery to unravel and more deaths to look forward.
Happy Death Day has a major comic book connection in writer Scott Lobdell, known for his work in the 90s on X-Men. While he’s written scripts for Marvel cartoons and stories for other films, Death Day was his first screenplay for a feature film. Lobdell is absent this time around — simply getting credit for creating the characters — and director Christopher Landon goes in alone, though you won’t notice.
We’ve Lived This Day Before
The idea isn’t new; it’s a slasher send-up of Groundhog Day. And the horror/thriller version of the Bill Murray classic has been done before elsewhere. Tom Cruise’s big-budget alien-invasion flick Edge of Tomorrow comes to mind. But it sets itself apart from those to earn greater comparisons.
Happy Death Day 2U is being compared to Back to the Future 2 more than anything. A fine film and one of the best sequels ever made, but the two don’t have a lot in common besides the sci-fi element. Aspects of Death Day 2’s premise align more with The Cloverfield Paradox and Triangle (Christopher Smith, 2009), between jabber about multiverses and killing other selves of varying characters.
What keeps Landon’s efforts fresh and entertaining is his ability to embrace the unpredictable ridiculousness of an endless time loop. Some say he flip-flops genres when that’s not really the case. He piles on the twists starting with the first sequence. We’re even led to believe someone else (Vu) will be more of a focal point than he ends up being.
Thankfully, he sticks with Tree, who can remarkably off herself in a number of ways and come back to relive the day differently each time. She does so with a devil-may-care attitude allowing for subtle winks at the camera — and not-so-subtle birds flipped.
Jessica Rothe capably carries this film as she did the last one. Her comedic timing and melodramatic chops are sharp even when the material is lacking a little something. A subplot concerning a new time loop and her mom involves an ultimatum where the choice should be easy but Tree gets convoluted into a corner.
A lot changes. Her friends are revamped, enemies become allies and vice versa, and shocking new relationships blossom. All told, Happy Death Day 2U tries new stuff but maintains consistency, never going too far off the beaten path. You’ll be able to have fun with this one. Oh, and there is a post-credit scene, and you’re used to that.
- Jessica Rothe
- Never feels stale
- Worthwhile sequel that tries its best
- Tree makes tough decisions when they don't have to be so tough.
- Her love interest doesn't bring much to the table.