Eye For Film >> Movies >> Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) Film Review
Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
A rare example of a sequel that improves on the original, Gremlins 2 takes its mischievous monsters to new heights - literally. After Gizmo, the mogwai star of Gremlins, falls into the clutches of Christopher Lee's obsessive geneticist Dr Catheter, he's installed in a lab in a New York 'smart building', a skyscraper designed to function like a city under one roof. Luckily for him, Billy (Zach Galligan), the boy who once got him for Christmas, happens to work there too - but unluckily, before he can get help, further mogwai have budded off from his body. They're quick to start eating after midnight, conducting lab experiments of their own, and preparing to tear up the town.
Warner Bros. desperation to secure a sequel to a film that kids in the UK were forbidden to see meant director Joe Dante got complete artistic control over this film, a rare phenomenon in any Hollywood film and especially in one which also enjoyed a decent sized budget. For this reason, we see none of the usual compromises that the sequel entails. Rather than sticking tightly to formula, Dante gleefully subverts it. The result is a thoroughly postmodern production that breaks all the rules without forgetting why they're important. Dante's thorough understanding of his subject matter results in a rich and textured film with far more going on than many of its critics have appreciated, a film that manages to be clever and ironic and willfully obscure but still fun.
Playing fast and loose with the structure of the original film, the sequel sees Billy and former love interest, now fiancee Kate (Phoebe Cates) once again called upon to save the day as the eponymous monsters work their way through the building destroying everything in their path but taking a particular interest in its TV studios. Made right at the tipping point for cable TV in America, the film gleefully satirises the developing industry but does so without losing sight of the importance of either its central plot or its key characters. The use of a 'smart serum' results in the creation of an intellectual gremlin who gives voice to the monsters as only a New Yorker could, whilst a token girl gremlin plays the pantomime dame part to a tee, right down to the point where her chosen love interest decides her attentions might not be so bad after all. Meanwhile, the big boss who would usually be the villain in a piece like this turns out to be a good guy, and Gizmo gets to undergo some character development of his own, showing that there's more than one way for a mogwai to get tough.
With a series of beautifully judged performances (excepting Hulk Hogan in a clumsy but wildly popular cameo that has dated badly), the film keeps viewers anchored as it plays with form as well as content, taking the anarchic spirit of the original a step further. Specially commissioned Looney Tunes inserts capture the mood perfectly and, in keeping with that tradition, the film intermittently questions its own logic. It also pokes fun at critics for taking the original too seriously, and Leonard Maltin gamely steps up to pay for his sins. A cracking script delivers plenty of great lines and underneath it all there's some amazing technical work. Between the humour and the action, it's all too easy to overlook the brilliant puppetry required to bring Gizmo and the gremlins to life.
Because it is so heavily referential and because it has so much topical humour, Gremlins 2 may be hard for younger viewers to get into and one does need some awareness of context to appreciate it fully. Some of its jokes are timeless, however, and its rabid energy will keep kids entertained. It takes a lot of skill to create something that looks this haphazard but still manages to cohere. This is Dante's masterpiece, and you'll never see anything else quite like it.Reviewed on: 11 Jun 2015