Happy Death Day 2U (aka Happy Death Day 2) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Jessica Rothe is undeniably the star of the Happy Death Day saga, more so than the baby-masked killer. She’s the most relatable and fun in how she takes a precise pin to poke holes in the horror mystery concept. Here, once again, she has her relatable moments but the most relatable by far is her muttering upon another day of reliving the same events; “I am so done with this.”
It’s a shame that Happy Death Day 2U wastes so much potential it has with such a concept. The first film had its clever appeal of Rothe playing college student Tree who has to relive the same day over and over until she can find her killer. Not a bad story. But the sequel shoots itself twice in the foot. For starters, it attempts to give a firm explanation as to why Tree kept reliving the same day and it wasn’t some killer’s curse. It’s a time travel device constructed by science students too smart for their own good. Like the big reveal of the Highlanders being aliens in The Quickening, it's an explanation that is not only unneeded but kinda ruins the mystique of the whole concept.
That being said, the story does start with an interesting idea. Instead of Tree experience the same day over and over, now it’s science student Ryan to solve the case of a new murder. Now here’s a movie. Ryan slowly starts to realize he’s trapped in a time loop and needs to rely on Tree’s expertise in this area of foiling the new baby-masked killer. Intriguing. But if that’s the movie you’re hoping for, tagged with a surprising twist about who his true killer really is, you can flush those hopes down the drain right away.
Due to time-travel nonsense, Tree is once more trapped in the same day as the first movie. Except this time there are certain trade-offs. Her boyfriend is now sleeping with her rival. Her dead mother is alive and well. And there’s a brand new killer on the loose. But with the time travel logic about Tree’s situation now known, who really cares about solving the murder mystery? It’s such a secondary aspect of the plot that every time this aspect comes up in her dimension-shifting jargon it feels tacked on. As if to say, “Oh, that’s who the killer was. That’s...neat, I guess.”
Where the film could have picked up steam was in its over-the-top nature of death and repetition of the same day again. But just as with Tree, the mounting deaths take their toll. It’s not that Tree skydiving without a parachute or taking a big swig of drain cleaner in a grocery store isn’t darkly funny. But it needs more of that. It needs a lot more of that dark charm to push through the jumbled logic and be more entertaining than confounding. Because the other gags the film offers come off with all the cartoonish stumbling of a forgettable 1980s teen comedy. It is 2019 and we have a gag where an amateur drama student dresses up as a damsel French stereotype to distract a campus official into losing track of his keys. And it works!
While the first Happy Death Day at least had a creative enough assembly, its sequel goes so far off the rails it's in another county. But for being so ludicrous, it still struggles with all its might to push that hilarity, pulling out nearly every dated gag I thought had been doomed to kid sitcoms where they would remain buried. Here they are unearthed in all their tacky glory, reminding us all why they were retired in the first place. And the surprise ending is so far overblown with tired lunacy and absurdity that the third film being planned could very well make for one of the most bizarre trainwrecks horror trilogies of all-time.