‘Happy Death Day 2U’

To cap her self-aware recap of the first Happy Death Day’s plot in Happy Death Day 2U, star Jessica Rothe reflects, “I know, pretty shitty.”

Though she’s ostensibly referring to the heinous plight she was forced through — reliving the day of her death on repeat until she figures out how to avoid her fatal fate; no happy day, indeed! — her excremental sentiment rather succinctly summarizes the quality of both movies in this burgeoning series — which may be done burgeoning after this installment’s tepid opening weekend — a classic case of a clever concept crippled by questionable execution; Groundhog Dog filtered through comedy-horror has undeniable promise!

But in the financially-capable, artistically-less-so hands of Blumhouse, it ain’t.

The sequel reverses the order of the aforementioned genre designation, leaning into the yucks while adding a heaping dose of science fiction, to the point where it’s more of a sci-fi dark-comedy than anything; horror is relegated almost entirely to the margins of the set-up — the threat of murder, the narrative engine of the first, is largely replaced by the galaxy-brain question of whether we’d choose to live in a parallel universe if it’s superior to our own. Put another way, what if we could live in our fictions, replete with happy-endings and all?

I support Blumhouse expanding their genre game, selling the horror elements — their proven specialty — in a movie that ultimately brings other genres into the fold. And I respect a batshit genre mashup as much as anyone…but not when the individual genres fail to coalesce with any sort of professional finesse, nor can they stand on their own.

If we’re comparing installments, I probably prefer the loftier craziness of grafting together three genres, even if the first melded its mere two more seamlessly.

Stray Take 1: A follow-up to my theory that Miss Bala is hamstrung by being PG-13: Happy Death Day 2U deftly overcomes its teenage-friendly rating, feeling violent without being gratuitously so.

Stray Take 2: When I referred to my girl Jessica Roth as a “star” in the lede, it was meant as an adjectival description of both her lead part here, AND the wattage of her acting talents. Can someone cast her endlessly-charismatic mojo in a legitimately-good movie, preferably one with a real screenplay? Please and thanks. For the record, I will forever defend Forever My Girl, but delightmares aren’t called delightdreams for a reason (delightmares = the ultimate so-bad-they’re-good movies, a topic I’ll be writing about more…soon? At the very least: eventually).

Stray Take 3: A sneaky-smart title. The surface meaning is obvious, but still pretty awesome: Happy Death Day is a play on Happy Birth Day, so Happy Death Day 2U riffs on the lyrics of the bday song. But the title doesn’t merely advertise its franchise origins; it also subtlety suggests the movie’s focus on alternate realities —as in, there’s 2 U’s.

Stray Take 4: Your regularly-scheduled album roundup will be nowhere to be found tomorrow. Blame my mom; when she stalks my every move visits, it severely limits my commute-listening. So prepare for an overstuffed edition next Thursday! In its place, we shall launch Write All Nite’s latest series: 12 Posts of Oscar. Come back in 24 hours for more…

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