In Happy Death Day, a college coed (Jessica Rothe) must relive the day of her death on repeat until she discovers the identity of her killer. In Happy Death Day 2U (which will see release Wednesday February 13th) another time loop is triggered and a new killer is on the loose.
I loved Happy Death Day. It was enjoyable, funny, and subverted expectations. Unfortunately, its successor didn’t manage to recapture the same magic that made its predecessor a surprise hit. Happy Death Day 2U isn’t a bad film, by any means. It still manages to deliver some laughs and it certainly gets some things right. But the end result still feels discombobulated.
One of my chief criticisms of the film is that each of the three acts feels like a completely different movie. The first act plays very much like a rehash of Happy Death Day, parts of the second act read a little bit like a modern take on Weird Science, and the third act feels like the point where writer/director Christoper Landon remembered that he had to revisit and tie up the masked killer subplot. The final showdown actually felt like more of an afterthought than anything else.
Perhaps Happy Death Day 2U feels a little disjointed because Landon was thrown into scripting a sequel to a film that didn’t really need a follow up effort. Maybe it feels like three different films because the concept was adequately explored the first time around and answering the question of why Tree (Jessica Rothe) was thrown into the time loop in the first movie wasn’t entirely necessary. In hindsight, I almost liked not knowing.
I was also a little surprised by the fact that in an era of subverting stereotypes and redefining gender roles that the sole female scientist in the film looks and acts like a complete nerd. It almost seems to send the message that a woman can be smart or beautiful but never both. I genuinely don’t think that was writer/director Christoper Landon’s intent but it did come across that way.
There were also some issues with continuity. The film takes place in two separate realities and there is some confusion and or lack of explanation regarding how the two timelines coexist and how making changes in one reality and then resetting the timeline effects the other.
Another small issue I have with Happy Death Day 2U is that none of the characters really grow or evolve. Tree makes a major evolution and learns a series of valuable life lessons in the first film. But other than realizing that dwelling on the past will keep you from living in the present, she doesn’t have that much of an arc this time around, nor does anyone else. This would have been fine if everything else had been solid but there are too many other missteps that keep the film from ever really achieving greatness.
I did really appreciate that the sequel managed to bring back all of the key players from the first film. There are few things I like less than recasting key roles or writing a likable character out of a follow up effort for no good reason. It was really enjoyable to see Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, and even some of the characters with smaller parts in the first film (IE: Tenea Intriago as the student protestor) coming back for a second helping.
The other big thing Happy Death Day 2 U has going for it is that when it’s funny, it’s really funny. There are a few legitimately hilarious exchanges, some perfectly timed one-liners, and a death montage that had me laughing throughout.
Ultimately, fans of the original will probably find things to appreciate about Happy Death Day 2 U. But check your expectations at the door. It’s not nearly as well-executed as its predecessor. And if you haven’t seen the original, it’s definitely a prerequisite to understanding/appreciating the sequel. The 30-second recap doesn’t quite suffice when it comes to explaining what transpired in the previous feature.
Happy Death Day 2 U will be in theatres nationwide beginning Wednesday, February 13th.
WICKED RATING: 5/10
Director(s): Christopher Landon
Writer(s): Christopher Landon
Stars: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, and Phi Vu
Release: February 13, 2017
Studio/ Production Co: Blumhouse, Universal
Sub-Genre: Time loop, Slasher, Horror comedy