Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Inexplicable Movie Review: Gremlins 2
To switch things up a bit, I thought I'd focus on a movie that I actually enjoy, but one that doesn't seem to get much love from anybody else - Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Much like Escape from L.A., Gremlins 2 works as a sequel because it goes in the opposite direction of its predecessor. It shifts from a horror movie to an Airplane-like spoof.
In Gremlins 2, the setting of the film has shifted from a small town to New York City. Billy, the cad married to the ultra foxy girl-next-door type played by Phoebe Cates, finds the runaway mogwai Gizmo on the streets one day. He tries to protect him, but of course, calamity ensues as Gizmo is exposed to water, and the resulting evil mogwais eat after midnight. They run amuck in Clamp Tower, which is run by an eccentric billionaire - think Jimmy James from Newsradio, or the portrayal of Carter Puderschmidt and his buddies in Family Guy.
While you don't need to have seen the original to enjoy the sequel - I hadn't - you do notice a few more inside jokes if you've experienced both. Also, watching the first makes you familiar with the rules of mogwais and gremlins: They reproduce if exposed to water or eat after midnight, and bright light and sunlight can kill them. This "reproduction" is kind of gross, as a warning, with gremlins "popping" out of gross, stretchy bubbles out of each other's backs.
In the original, the gremlins were played up for horror and suspense purposes, but in Gremlins 2, the focus is definitely on slapstick and humor. This is especially evident when the gremlins takeover the genetics lab of the tower, and start guzzling weird potions and injection each other. One becomes super intelligent and is voiced by Tony Randall, and then delivers soliloquy and civilization and understanding.
While the leads are mostly there to play the story "straight", much like the lead roles in Airplane, the supporting characters are hilarious. Standouts include Christopher Lee as an incredibly mad scientist, his twin research assistants, the aforementioned Randall as the voice of the brain gremlin, a Dracula impersonator and kids' show host who serves as a news broadcaster, and Clamp himself.
The movie also loves to break the fourth wall, spoofing itself and other movies. Leonard Maltin reviews the original Gremlins in a fake production of his own TV review show. The middle of the movie is interrupted by gremlins, who are then chased away by (depending on the version you're watching) Hulk Hogan or John Wayne. Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig have skits to open and close the movie. And the Clamp Cable Network, who Dracula-guy works for, has several other spoofs, like a Julia Child-esque chef who uses a microwave primarily.