1.5 out of 4 stars
Consider yourself warned: The first 10 minutes of the sequel to one of one of the biggest surprise hits of 2017 is so good you’ll think “Happy Death Day 2U” has a shot at being even better than the first.
Then, the rest of the movie happens.
It’s hard to classify “Happy Death Day 2U.” It fails at being funny, so it’s not a comedy. It’s not very suspenseful – save for the first scene – so it’s not a thriller. It’s not nearly as gruesome as its predecessor, so it’s not a good slasher movie, either.
So what it is? Let’s just call it what it is: a pretty bad film. That’s a shame for writer director Christopher Landon, who set high expectations after “Happy Death Day,” which turned a $4.8 budgeted film into a huge hit that took home more than $125 million at the worldwide box office.
The premise of the first film was college student Tree (Jessica Rothe) gets murdered on her birthday but she doesn’t truly die – she keeps living the same day over and over until she discovers her killer. It turns out to be her vindictive roommate.
“Happy Death Day 2U” begins where the last film ended. Tree and Carter (Israel Broussard) are a couple, but their day is interrupted when Carter’s roommate Ryan (Phi Vu) claims he’s living the same day over again. He claims he was murdered by a killer wearing – you guessed it – a giant baby mask, which is the college’s mascot. It’s also the same mask Tree’s killer wore.
Tree, Carter and Ryan realize Ryan is stuck in the same time loop as Tree had been, except they don’t know how history repeated itself.
The film could go so many intriguing ways here. But the path it chooses is its downfall. Ryan has created essentially a makeshift time machine as a science project and now Tree and Ryan are both stuck in the same loop. But instead of finding better and more creative ways for Tree to get murdered, Tree instead commits suicide every day until she can find a way to return to the present.
What made the original so entertaining was the manner in which Tree died. This time, she just kills herself. There’s nothing funny about it, even though the movie tries to make the way she kills herself – like jumping out of a plane wearing nothing but underwear – funny.
At its core, “Happy Death Day 2U” tries to be a lot of things, including the next “Back to the Future.” But its lack of focus ruins what should have been a good film. Tree, Carter and Ryan team with Ryan’s nerdy science partners – played by Sarah Yarkin and Suraj Sharma – who try to be funny. They should stick to making time machines.
The movie, however, isn’t a total waste, as the ending practically guarantees there will be another ‘Death Day,” which almost certainly will be better.
It can’t be much worse.
Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 19 years of experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game.