Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

(On TV, September 2017) Deftly taking up and amplifying the cartoonish anarchism of its predecessor, Gremlins 2: The New Batch continues in more or less the same vein, taking the mayhem even further. It’s not as good as the original: the effect of surprise isn’t there, and there’s a clear sense that Gremlins 2 is more dedicated at making fun of itself than delivering a story in the way the first film did. So it is full with cartoonish gags, affectionate pokes at its premise (“what if you’re on an airplane?”), anarchic fun and fourth-wall-breaking. The two leads from the first film are back, Gizmo gets tortured and the human antagonist is a blended parody of Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch, but let’s not pretend that the stars of the story are anyone but the Gremlins themselves, especially when a conveniently placed genetics research facility makes them articulate, able to fly or capable of turning themselves into electricity. Under director John Landis’s prime-era imagination, the film is incredibly fun to watch. Various set-pieces stick in mind: While everyone will enjoy the sequence in which Hulk Hogan tells the Gremlins to put the movie back on, Canadians will be particularly pleased by a sequence set in a Canada-themed restaurant with plenty of freeze-frame details. Gremlins 2 isn’t the great movie that the first Gremlins was, but it’s a more than decent follow-up, almost perfectly calibrated to make fans of the first film giddy with happiness. 

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