Film Review: “Happy Death Day 2 U” is a bigger and hollower sequel
Happy Death Day might’ve been a Groundhog Day rip-off coloured with teen horror tropes, but it entertained. This was largely thanks to a spunky and winning performance by Jessica Rothe. With verve and wit, she played a college student fuck-up (and a pretty unkind one at that) named Tree who was doomed to repeat the day she was gruesomely murdered. It wasn’t original or groundbreaking, but it was enough.
And it was successful, so now there’s a sequel: Happy Death Day 2 U. Cute title aside, it has a problem justifying itself. The plot hinges on the nuts and bolts of why Tree is stuck in this fatal time loop. This is something Happy Death Day wisely did not opt to focus on – because, y’know, who cares basically. Granted, this premise isn’t completely devoid of some delight; there’s exposition about parallel universes, allowing for some fun alternate takes on the world introduced in Happy Death Day. There’s a new dilemma for Tree, but it’s a frustratingly false dilemma and its outcome is never in doubt. There’s not even a mystery to enliven the film’s perfunctory proceedings.
Consequently, the slasher thrills and spills are traded up for sci-fi gobbledygook and time-y-wimey shenanigans. The comedy is ramped up this go-around , even treading into farcical territory at times, but it’s far less clever. The drama is also artificially inflated to weepy levels. These overbearing attempts to make you laugh and care unfortunately only grate more than anything else.
It’s an unwieldy, uncertain monster of a movie, so lacking the first’s amiable nimbleness and cheek. Bigger means hollower in this inessential sequel, yet it’s still entirely watchable at the worst of times due to Rothe’s effervescent presence. She’s that good.