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Home / Entertainment / Jessica Rothe makes dying and comedy look easy with the convoluted fun of Happy Death Day 2U

Jessica Rothe makes dying and comedy look easy with the convoluted fun of Happy Death Day 2U



Photo: Universal Pictures
 Lead

B-

Director

Christopher Landon

Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews, Charles Aitken, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Steve Zissis

Availability

Theaters everywhere February 13

Most sequels are time warps: It's the audience that gets stuck in a loop, experiencing the same premise all over again. So it should come as no shock that Happy Death Day 2U finds a way to zap sorority girl Tree (Jessica Rothe) right back into the live-the-repeat cycle she escaped at the end of 2017's horror comedy sleeper Happy Death Day . Tree, naturally, is livid, and as it storms into the morning. After all, did not the first film already push the déjà vu factor to its limit? We were not just constantly reliving the same plots as his frozen-in-time main character. We were also stumbling through the Phil Connors redemption plan, watching a selfish person Groundhog Day herself into basic human decency. Maybe Tree's screamed-to-the-heavens "Not again!" Is the proper response to a sequel.

At first, it looks like the movie might just take a page from the slate and pass the baton to a different protagonist. Ryan (Phi Vu) who finds himself stuccoed in time's amber, is killed and instantly reborn just one day after his college roommate, Carter (Israel Broussard), helped Tree escape her own respawn purgatory. Vu's stoner-doofus routines makes Rothe's comic agony. It's not the most promising game plan, just how much of the first movie it is.

Thing is, more of the same. The happy surprise of Happy Death Day 2U does does find ways to tweak the formula of its predecessor, to break the cycle of franchise redundancy. As it turns out, Ryan's the one responsible for these chronological record skips, for his own predicament and tree's. The culprit: a very 1980s weird science project, a machine called the Quantum Cooling Reactor. It seems safe to say that no one wishes to gimmick this series to explain the mechanics of its magical. But in Happy Death Day 2U returning writer-director Christopher Landon uses goofy time-mumbo jumbo not just to get his heroine back into cosmic limbo, but to the rules of her ordeal: The movie's twist is that while the day is the same, the world itself is … different . Her relationships have changed. So, too, the identity of the baby-masked killer has stalking her and her friends.

Photo: Universal Pictures Groundhog Day naturally, that got self- consciously name-checked. Here, someone lampshades the convoluted fun with an apropos Back To The Future 2 reference. Fans of the first Happy Death Day might complain that the sequel loses some of the simple pleasure of the original, cluttering up its borrowed, enduring premise with too many literally loopy complications, the way Robert Zemeckis once chased a resonant sci-fi comedy with a less soulful, more complicated rollercoaster ride through multiple timelines. But Landon's first movie honestly could have used some complicating; it was not nearly enough with its Scream -on-repeat conceit. She was inspired by the story of "The best thing about it," by Leaps and bounds, what made Rothe's inspired comic performance-the multiple shades of frustration she brought to Tree's existential crisis. Happy Death Day 2U smartly keeps the focus on its lead's manic-neurotic energy: bellowing a gloating "Ha!" As the killer tumbles down a flight of stairs, or grinning like a lunatic during a slapstick variation on the Phil Connor's suicide montage.

In many ways, this not-bad sequel feels more keyed to Rothe's expressive shtick. The scene is the most difficult of scenes, most of which take place in the same few hallways of a curiously empty and boringly nondescript hospital. (For all this series borrows from Wes Craven, it could not be better on his mastery of tension and release.) Not that the comedy is more sophisticated: The addition of a disapproving dean (Steve Zissis) and a supporting posse of lab geeks spikes the genre blend Revenge Of The Nerds tomfoolery, which is basically subtraction by addition. Nonetheless, Happy Death Day 2U at least knows what it has in Rothe, the scream queen as delightful screwball star. And if a soonly sentimental tearjerker subplot actually lands, it's because of the honest feeling the actor invests into Tree's new moral dilemma. Putting this premise through another iteration would almost certainly overkill, but when did a slender franchise quit while it was ahead? With Rothe on board, it would not be so bad, doing the time warp yet again.


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