Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

“Now was that civilized? No, clearly not.”

Justin’s rating: gremlins in my stinkin’ computer, grumble grumble…

Justin’s review: From the start, Gremlins 2: The New Batch has a few problems being a sequel to the dark cult classic Gremlins. Even though it retains heroes Billy (Zack Galligan) and Kate (Phoebe Cates), the pair have lost the innocence of their youth and are now striking out as adults in the Big Apple. There, they both work in a high-tech skyscraper while eeking out a meagre living — but at least they have love, right? And when you’re livin’ on a prayer, you’re already halfway there.

Unfortunately, their work conditions go from “pathetic” to “Die Hard with puppets,” as Gizmo returns and ends up spawning so many gremlins that not even John McClaine could contain them.

As befits its status as a sequel, Gremlins 2 now features far more varied and advanced puppets and animatronics. Now Gizmo can walk and dance, and even stick out his tongue! It only makes you wonder what will happen when they come out with Gremlins 3: I Know What You Ate After Midnight and use CGI to have them performing complex dance sequences.

At least the filmmakers recognized that the true stars are the nasty little green guys, and in that, and there is such a splendid variety. I’m reminded of the ’80s Garbage Pail Kids collectable cards and its gruesome genetic freak show. In this films, we get dopey gremlin, hyper gremlin, lady gremlin, spider gremlin, phantom of the opera gremlin, bat gremlin, and even a sort-of sequel to Stripe. They might still be overmatched by the security force and the local cops, except that the machine-tampering gremlins turn the technology of the skyscraper against itself and trap all sorts of innocent (and not-so-innocent) souls inside.

At this point, it makes you wonder why Billy and Kate don’t just throw their hands up, say “Not again!” and walk away from the situation when it goes bad. After all, it’s not like they *caused* the gremlins to happen. It’s not their responsibility, but even so, they feel compelled to clean it up. I ask you, why do horror movie heroes feel compelled to continually throw themselves into the line of fire when they know that even if they survive, no one will give them any big reward?

If you can throw rationality to the wind (and not into the prevailing wind, mind you), Gremlins 2 makes for a surprisingly good watch. Brainy Gremlin is absolutely the best, and I could listen to him talk for hours. There’s also a great moment when Leonard Maltin is reviewing the original Gremlins and literally gets attacked by the sequel, which is the best illustration of irony that I can think of. And there’s even a fabulous final musical number!

Perhaps you could say that Gremlins 2 is far inferior to the original, but I prefer to think of it as a great complement to the first. It’s more weird and silly than scary this time around, but you can see how director Joe Dante wanted to flip the script to try out some different ideas. And what wackadoodle ideas they are!

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