The Movie Guru: ‘Happy Death Day 2’ more pleasure than horror | VailDaily.com

The Movie Guru: ‘Happy Death Day 2’ more pleasure than horror

"Happy Death Day 2 U" focuses on a college student stuck in a "Groundhog Day" type time loop, constantly fighting her killer.
Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

Happy Death Day 2U

Rated: PG-13 for violence, language, sexual material and thematic elements.

Written by: Christopher Landon.

featuring characters by: Scott Lobdell.

Directed by: Christopher Landon.

Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Rachel Matthews, Ruby Modine and more.

Grade: Three and a half stars.

“Happy Death Day 2 U” isn’t really horror, but it is a delight.

The sequel to 2017’s “Happy Death Day,” the movie is even more creative and fun than the already entertaining original. Though the horror element is really more of an afterthought here, there’s so much humor, originality and heart that make up for it. It’s not only one of the best sequels I’ve ever seen in my life, but one of the best movies.

I can’t tell you anything about the plot without spoiling some of the experience for you, but it helps to go in with a recap of the first movie (which they helpfully provide in the film as well). A college student named Tree gets murdered by a masked killer on her birthday, only to wake up that morning to live the day over and over again. Her only chance of stopping the loop is by finding and stopping the killer once and for all.

With a plot like that, there are certain assumptions an audience might make about a sequel. The movie knows this, and even plays along with those assumptions for the first 10 or so minutes. They do so entertainingly enough that I didn’t even mind the predictability, happy to settle in and watch a new variation on a familiar theme.

New Direction

Then the movie upends everything it had already set up, sending the in-universe concept off in a refreshing and unexpected new direction. In the processes, they manage to more deeply explore some of the themes from the original movie, offer a surprising new take on the movie’s villain, and send the movie into a whole new genre. It transforms the entire series without invalidating anything that happened in the first film, and all of it in a completely unexpected way.

Though the movie has mostly left horror behind, the original’s dark sense of humor is still very much prevalent in the sequel. As “Groundhog Day” proved, one person dying repeatedly has the potential to be surprisingly funny if it’s done right.

Rothe is fantastic

Jessica Rothe is fantastic as Tree, deeply engaging no matter what tone of scene she has to take on. She makes both deadpan exasperation and frustrated rage absolutely hilarious, and yet you totally believe how tough she is in dangerous moments. She’s also great at the more emotional moments, letting us see just how high the stakes are for Tree in all this.

The rest of the cast is fun as well. Israel Broussard’s Carter gets more of a chance to shine, while Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma and Sarah Yarkin all slide in so perfectly you’d think they’d always been part of the regular cast. Ruby Modine offers a surprisingly nuanced performance, given her role, and Rachel Matthews kills it (pardon the pun) in one of the movie’s funniest scenes.

The movie ends with a mid-credits scene that’s a pretty big sequel hook, and I for one, am excited. I can’t wait to see where the series goes next.

Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at themovieguruslc@gmail.com.