HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U
by Dave Kibler
Most sequel films are really time warps, trapping the viewer in the same plot or premise all over again. So how do you make a sequel about a film based on that very premise? That’s the conundrum faced by writer-director Christopher Landon in “Happy Death Day 2U”, the sequel to 2017’s wake-up-die-repeat comedy slasher “Happy Death Day to 2U”. For the most part, Landon succeeds in giving the sequel a fresh new spin by changing the “Groundhog Day” aspect of the film into something of a cross between “Quantum Leap”, “Sliders” and “Murder, She Wrote.”
In the sequel, we find Ryan (Phi Vu), the roommate of Tree’s new boyfriend Carter (Israel Broussard), stuck in the same time loop that Tree (Jessica Rothe) found herself in during the first film. The comes the curve ball. Tree believed she was stuck in the loop to grow as a person (ala Groundhog Day). It turns out Ryan is responsible for putting her into this loop with a quirky device nicknamed CISSY. Grounding Tree’s troubles in science fiction allows the sequel to venture into a whole new universe, which it does thanks to a lab mishap. Now Tree is stuck back on the same September 18th she relived numerous times, but she is on a parallel Earth, and only Ryan and CISSY can get her home.
Rothe makes for a delightful heroine, one part comically annoyed, one part oddly intrigued at the differences this mirror world offers. If you expect a typical slasher from “Happy Death Day 2U”, you will be sorely disappointed. The Babyface Killer returns, but since it’s a different universe, there’s someone new hiding behind the mask. Rothe faces each of the film’s challenges with aplomb, and the movie brings up a common-enough concept: If we are the sum of our experiences, would being able to change our past make us less of a person? When you watch “Happy Death Day 2U”, ask yourself if you would choose as Tree does when faced with that quandry.
The supporting cast does a fine job with what they have to work with, including a quantum physics student played by Suraj Shuma, Tree’s frenemies (Ruby Modine and Rachel Matthews), and a bellowing, blustering Science Department Dean (Steve Zissis). Writer-Director Landon knows he has a gem in Rothe, an actress who can easily shift from screwball comedy to earnest tears in a heartbeat. The film is rated PG-13 for language and mostly comedic violence.
There are plot holes big enough to drive a team of Clydesdales through in this genre-bender, but if you are willing to ignore them, then you will enjoy this “sideways” sequel. You can enjoy this movie without seeing the first one, but I would recommend a download of it before heading to the cinema just so you are up to speed. “Happy Death Day 2U” is one time warp worth doing again.