(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.
(On Cable TV, October 2016) I’ve been revisiting a lot of eighties classics lately, and this often means watching movies again for the first time in twenty-plus years. Not Gremlins, though: while I remember a lot of the film’s marketing (including the three “rules” of gremlins care and feeding), I had unexplainably managed to miss watching the film until now. I say “unexplainably” because Gremlins ends up being right up my alleyway and a quasi-classic after only one viewing. The anarchic mixture of horror and comedy rarely lets up once the film gets going midway through, and the second half is a gag-every-ten-seconds experience. Director Joe Dante successfully helms a film embarrassingly dense in practical effects, comic cues, dark humour and unbridled chaos. Despite the often sadistic humour (which helped usher in the PG-13 rating), it’s a lot of fun as a spectacle even if much of the connective tissue is dumb or irritating. The kitchen fight sequence is particularly good, making an action heroine out of an ordinary mom. Gremlins is compelling to watch (and I say this on some authority as I’m going through the often dull eighties greatest hits) and I’m now actively looking into watching Gremlins 2.