Thursday, October 22, 2015

Gremlins 2: The New Batch

Year 7, Day 295 - 10/22/15 - Movie #2,180

BEFORE: The stars of "Gremlins" carry over - Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates, and a few others.  With the laws of diminishing returns on sequels, my hopes are not high today, but let's get this out of the way.

THE PLOT:  The Gremlins are back, and this time, they've taken total control over the building of a media mogul.   

AFTER: Well, if the first "Gremlins" film was quite silly, this is really absurdist nonsense.  Maybe it always was, I'm not sure.  Did someone set out to make a parody of horror films in general, or a parody of "Gremlins" specifically, or was someone just not trying to make something completely coherent?  Because once you start mixing in parodies of everything from "Rambo" to "Batman" to "Phantom of the Opera", it's difficult to take anything seriously, from start to finish. 

From the opening logo, which is a strange sequence starring Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, which seems like it's going to turn into a short cartoon preceding the feature, but then doesn't, right through to the closing credits, which feature Porky Pig's famous "Th-th-th-that's All, Folks!", the tone is set.  Everything in between is essentially a cartoon, with cartoony sound effects to accompany every mallet to the head or breaking glass.  The Gremlins are somehow dressed in whatever costume they need to make a point, just like Bugs Bunny would suddenly be wearing a dress or a construction worker's overalls, if that's what was needed to move the comedy forward.  

But these are still puppets - oh, the animatronic technology got better in the 5 or 6 years since the first film, but they still look like puppets, and I still can't take them seriously as a scary thing.  

Huge contrivances tonight, the first being the set-up - I can accept that the male + female leads from the first film have moved to NYC from their upstate (?) town, but what are the odds that they've both gotten jobs in the same office building as the man who discovers Gizmo out on the street?  It's astronomically unlikely, considering the thousands of companies and buildings in Manhattan.  And they work for a media mogul / real estate developer (think Ted Turner meets Donald Trump) who just happens to have his TV channel broadcast facilities in the building, and there just happens to be a genetic research lab renting out one of the floors.  Yeah, right.  Give me a break, it's ridiculous, even for a movie. 

Then we come to a number of other things which cannot be taken seriously.  The nutty female boss takes out her young male employee to a Canadian restaurant?  Where the waiters dress like Mounties, and they serve chocolate mousse in the shape of a moose?  There's no such place in New York - I think we have one pancake house that serves big Canada-themed breakfasts, but that's it - it's not even a proper style of dining, like Chinese or Thai.  Similarly, at one point the characters exit a police station, where a group of mimes is being led out of a paddy wagon - WTF?  As a non sequitur, this is like something out of "Airplane", and it messes with the suspension of non-belief, it reminds us that we're watching a movie.  

Then there's this weird break in the movie, which made sense if you saw this film in the theater - the film appears to blister and break, as if the projector malfunctioned, and then we see Gremlins doing hand shadows, as if they've knocked out the projectionist and taken over the cinema.  However, this makes much less sense if you're watching the film on DVD or cable.  They then put on a 1950's nudist film to mess with the audience.  But then they cut to a woman complaining to a theater manager - OK, so we were briefly in the same reality as the Gremlins, but now we're back in the film again?  Essentially it's an admission that the plot of the film is weak, the break probably covers up a narrative point where they didn't know how to advance the story.

Similarly, there's a point where a movie reviewer is seen on TV, reviewing a copy of the VHS release of "Gremlins".  So, inside the "Gremlins" universe there's also a movie called "Gremlins"?  Is it the same film, and if so, how is that possible?  My mind should be blown, but instead I just want to shrug and point out that this makes no sense.  By throwing in an extra gag, they torpedoed any chance of this reality being possible, and again, that reminds me that I'm watching a film and messes with my experience. 

I know, I take this sort of thing too seriously - but most films don't feel the need to throw in extra gags that are also impossible.  This is like piling on, things that are ridiculous on top of things that are already unlikely and hard to believe.  In addition, we've got all this junk science, like when the gremlins take over the genetics lab, and start messing with their own DNA.  But if you drink spider DNA, you don't turn into a half-spider, that's not the way DNA or digestive systems work.  And if you get electrocuted, you don't turn into electricity.  Jeez, this is worse than some of the origins from old comic books.  

Though I will give props for poking fun at the first "Gremlins" film - like people asking questions about that "Don't feed them after midnight" rule, much like I did last night.  And the character who told that terrible Christmas story in the first film starts to tell a similar story about a terrible thing that happened to her on Lincoln's birthday, and the other characters cut her off.  Now, that's funny.

Also starring John Glover (last seen in "Melvin and Howard"), Robert Prosy (last seen in "The Scarlet Letter"), Robert Picardo (last seen in "Wagons East"), Christopher Lee (last seen in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies"), Dick Miller (also carrying over from "Gremlins"), Jackie Joseph (ditto), Keye Luke (ditto), Gedde Watanabe (last seen in "EdTV"), Havilland Morris (last seen in "Sixteen Candles"), Don & Dan Stanton, Shawn Nelson, Archie Hahn, Kathleen Freeman (last seen in "Ready to Rumble"), Julia Sweeney (last heard in "Monsters University"), the voices of Tony Randall (last seen in "Down With Love"), Howie Mandel (also carrying over from "Gremlins"), Frank Welker (ditto), with cameos from Paul Bartel (last seen in "Into the Night"), Patrika Darbo, John Astin (last seen in "Teen Wolf Too"), Henry Gibson (last seen in "The Incredible Shrinking Woman"), Isiah Whitlock Jr. (last seen in "Not Fade Away"), Leonard Maltin, Hulk Hogan (last seen in "Muppets From Space"), Dick Butkus (last seen in "The Last Boy Scout"), Bubba Smith, Joe Dante. 

RATING: 3 out of 10 flashlights

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