With already low expectations, “Happy Death Day 2U,” the sequel to “Happy Death Day,” disappoints as its illogical premise and failed humor results in an overall subpar film.
The film “Happy Death Day 2U,” directed by Christopher Landon, follows the misadventures of Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe), an undergraduate sorority girl at Bayfield University. Tree finds herself looped into reliving the same day over and over, with each day inevitably resulting in her death, most commonly at the hands of a criminal in a baby mask. Mirroring the actions of the first film, Tree and her unlikely group of the most grossly stereotypical undergraduate “nerds” seek to resolve the unbreakable time loop created by her friend Ryan Phan (Phi Vu).
My expectations of the plot were low to begin with, but the ever-twisting developments sent me to a different level of wonder. Ryan and his colleagues, who while conducting a thesis project, miraculously create a device that is able to harness massive amounts of energy and somehow end up altering of reality. Yes, this is the same movie about the girl being killed over and over again by a guy in a baby mask. The plot intensifies as Ryan sends Tree into an alternate reality where everything seems to be just slightly different than the one she previously occupied.
In one reality, Tree’s mother has passed away and she has found herself in a romantic relationship with Carter Davis (Israel Broussard), a member of the group of “nerds” who helped her catch her killer in the first film. In the other reality, where the movie takes place, she comes to realize that her mother is still alive, and is left with no memory of the previous years she spent with her. Also, Tree comes to realize that her boyfriend in the other reality, Carter, is dating Danielle, a sorority sister she detests. Typing this out even feels too absurd to be typing, and that reflects how I felt while watching the film.
Ultimately, Tree realizes that she must stop the loop of her reliving the same day by fixing the time-looping device Ryan had constructed, which can only be done by correctly writing an algorithm that will close the loop. However, each time Tree is inevitably murdered, everyone but her is left with no memory of the day. With this knowledge, Tree somehow goes on to store mass amounts of sophisticated physics equations and opts to continually kill herself with the goal of fixing the machine.
It is here the film’s message finally shines through, and it is actually refreshing because it may be the only thing in the film that kind of makes sense. Tree has to decide if she will opt to remain in the reality she currently is in, with her mother alive but boyfriend unaware of their relationship, or be sent back to the reality where her mother has passed. After countless suicides provoking a few shallow laughs from the audience, Tree decides she will return to her original reality, coming to the realization that we must live for the future and not dwell on the woes of our past.
Surprisingly, my issues with the film did not necessarily lie with the message, which came across as wholesome and genuine. I simply could not buy into the countless amounts of leaps of faith director, Christopher London, expected the audience to take for the development of the plot. There were no clear connections to be made and it gave the movie a sense of absurdity that would be found in something starring Adam Sandler rather than a film even attempting to call itself a thriller. It felt as if the film was being constructed as it was written, with each end being justified by a means that was thought of on set the day of filming.
The film, being a sequel, requires a rather high level of comprehension and retention from the first installment, which can be rather detrimental to an unfamiliar viewer. The only sort of background was provided through about a one minute, sped up, narration by Tree which came across as lazy and humorous to an extent. There were several moments where it felt as if there should be laughter; however, it is still unclear if this was intended by the writers. The movie showed as a self-aware film that was supposed to be vastly absurd, similar to the style of “Scary Movie 2,” but being listed as a thriller, I do not believe that was the end goal.
Despite the negatives, there were a few quality aspects of the film. A glimmer of hope shone through for the film through the two leads, Jessica Rothe and Israel Broussard, who I believe did a commendable job giving life to two of the most boring characters in cinematic history. The characters were written to fit molds that have been done hundreds of times — the blonde and not very smart sorority girl and the quirky, nerdy, awkward and pale physics major. However, both Rothe and Broussard were able to give the characters a bit of life via strong personalities and character with each line delivered.
As a whole, the film is not one I would recommend to anyone with intentions of watching a piece of cinema that is well-developed and structured. However, if anyone wishes to watch an amusing and absurd take on college relationships and travel between alternate realities, be my guest. From the same studio that brought audiences, “Insidious,” “Halloween,” and “Get Out,” it is best to not expect any of what those films produced from “Happy Death Day 2U.” Sometimes sequels are forced, and sometimes they are circles being forced into square spaces — this is the latter.
Director: Christopher Landon
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu
Release Date: Feb. 13, 2019
Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.