Monday, April 11, 2016


Hey there. My name's Tony, and I'm a new writer here at Merc With a Movie Blog, and I look forward to providing great content for you guys! So you guys can get a sense of my tastes, for my first post, lets start with a review of one of my favorite movies of all time, Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

Probably my favorite thing about Gremlins 2 is how it subverts expectations. Instead of trying to top the original 1984 creature feature, director Joe Dante instead decided to essentially turn Gremlins 2 into a self aware parody, and in doing so, accidentally managed to surpass the original. It avoids falling into the trap that movies like Ghostbusters 2 fell into by trying to recreate that same magic a second time, and instead manages to become something all its own. The original Gremlins, while funny, was, in many ways, a horror movie. The sequel takes a decidedly different tone.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch is essentially a live action cartoon, which is made clear with the opening, featuring Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck introducing the movie (or trying to). From that opening, which sets the tone for the rest of the movie, it only gets progressively wackier. The story is similar enough to the original, so much so that you’d almost fault it for that. Small mischievous creatures named Mogwai’s are trapped in a secluded area, turn into evil Gremlins after they feed after midnight, and subsequently wreak absolute havoc. Whereas the first movie took place in a small town, The New Batch takes place in a large, modernized office building in New York City owned by the Clamp Corporation, whose owner, Mr. Clamp, is obsessed with modernization and automation. It's not only an office building, but also a shopping mall with restaurants and stores, a TV studio, cable network, stock exchange, and even houses a genetic research facility (complete with white lab coat wearing mad scientists, including one played by Christopher Lee). This high tech, bustling setting essentially acts as a stage for the Gremlins to cause chaos on a scale you’ve rarely seen before. But the Gremlins aren’t the only characters in the story. The film brings back its two leads from the original, Billy and Kate (played by Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates), for the sequel. Since they both happen to work at the Clamp building, it’s up to them to save the building, it's employees, and all of New York City, from the Gremlins.

Even before the Gremlins themselves come into the picture, the movie already has this underlying sense that everything is slightly off kilter, especially in the Clamp building itself. From people getting stuck inside automated revolving doors to PA announcements advertising Clamp’s TV station with messages like “Casablanca, now in color, and with a happier ending!”, the movie is already a little madcap. The genetic research lab is one of the weirder places in the building, with animals being spliced with other animal DNA, cloning experiments, and other weird and funny things going on. My personal favorite is the talking cow obsessed with milk, a smaller gag that hides in the background. It only gets crazier when the Gremlins finally do show up after the first act and start raiding the food court, crashing the taping of a cooking show, and messing with some of the genetics-altering chemicals and potions. Some of the most memorable characters in the movie are Gremlins who drink some of these chemicals, creating spider-Gremins, Gremlins made from pure electricity, and even a super-intelligent Gremlin who speaks with a British accent. It's THAT kind of a movie.

Above all, the movie wants to have fun, though that does at times come at the expense of its characters. The movie is full of oddball characters, from Mr. Clamp himself, who seems to act more like a child than a businessman, to a horror host who's constantly dressed as Dracula for a horror show he films on one of the upper floors of the building. Billy and Kate end up being really the only grounded characters in the whole piece. Many of these characters have only the semblance of a character arc, only enough that we can remain invested in them. That being said, it's not perfect. One of the smaller subplots involves Billy and Kate talking about getting married, and Billy having to fend off the advances of his boss, Marla, a chain smoking and power hungry member of low level management. It’s a subplot that never really goes anywhere and ends up being dropped by the midway point once the Gremlins start taking over everything. Fortunately, the movie's smart enough that it doesn't try to stuff the movie full of that kind of stuff, instead deciding to focus on its strengths, the action and the comedy.

I didn’t find this lack of real character depth much of an issue since Gremlins 2 is a very different kind of movie than the original, where we really DID have solid character arcs. It’s a movie all about fun and about not taking anything too seriously, and the Gremlins are really the stars of the show. Some of my favorite gags from them included SEVERAL movie references to things from the Wizard of Oz to Rambo to Phantom of the Opera, a gag where the Gremlins attack a film critic giving a critical review of the original movie, and one of the funniest fourth wall breaks I've ever seen (that I won't spoil here). The Gremlins hold nothing back, and it’s what makes the movie so much fun. Hulk Hogan even has a cameo in one of the best moments of the movie. I won’t say what it is, but the Hulkster does manage to find time to rip his shirt off.

Gremlins 2 is not going to be a film for everyone. If you want a comedy that pays as much attention to the characters as it does to the humor, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere. If you're looking for the same kind of movie as the first Gremlins, you may be disappointed. So who is it for? It’s for anyone who wants a fun, crazy, balls-to-the-wall comedy that knows exactly what it is and does it better than almost any movie before or since. It’s crazy, it’s nutty, it’s unpredictable, and it’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had watching a movie. It’s one of my favorite comedies of all time. Maybe it’ll be yours too.

Tony's Score: 9/10

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