Happy Death Day was like Groundhog Day reimagined as a slasher flick. The sequel, Happy Death Day 2U, is like Back to the Future Part II reimagined the same way. This could have been a bad move, except that the original didn't take itself too seriously, so anyone who saw it will be sufficiently primed for the left turn into time-travel sci-fi that the movie takes.
Jessica Rothe returns as Tree Gelbman. The time loop she got stuck in has now transferred to Ryan (Phi Vu), the intrusive neighbor of her classmate/boyfriend Carter (Israel Broussard). She discovers that the loop was caused by a science experiment Ryan and his research team are conducting. In attempting to get him out of the loop, she is sucked back in. This forces Tree to revisit a few of the events from the original yet again, much as Marty McFly had to do in BTTF 2. Many involve preventing that babyface mask-wearing killer from murdering her – or anyone else.
The gist of Happy Death Day 2U is that the experiment has opened up a multiverse. Tree gets out of her own dimension and into another one. In a clever twist, some of the things about the new dimension are significantly better for her than in the correct one, whereas other things are far worse. Much of the movie is a race to figure out how to close the loop once and for all. While Ryan and friends work on that, Tree must die every day in order to give them the time they require.
Look, this is one nutso film. The horror element remains, yet it is downplayed significantly in favor of mind-bending time-travel concepts and more of the goofy humor that was a charming part of the original. Tree's multiple deaths are bigger and broader. The best of them – a leap from a skydiving plane without a parachute – pays off hilariously. Happy Death Day 2U has a blast concocting as many gruesome demises for its heroine as possible. As that happens, messing around with the dimensions reveals additional repercussions, such as the killer slaying various people aside from Tree.
You have to be willing to go with the free-flowing vibe. Yes, HDD2U is a bit unfocused from running in so many directions. That's part of the appeal, though. Here is a movie that works overtime to entertain you, to surprise you, to keep you from growing bored. Part of it is even touching, as Tree gets an opportunity to have something from her past corrected through her plight.
The glue holding everything together is Jessica Rothe. As in the original, she skillfully takes Tree through an assortment of emotions. Comedic moments are the best, as the actress has masterful timing. Whether outrunning the killer or offing herself in some darkly funny manner, Rothe earns our empathy. She's phenomenal.
Happy Death Day 2U doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and it borders on the absurd in spots. And you know what? I didn't care because it's just so much doggone fun.
out of 4
Happy Death Day 2U is rated PG-13 for violence, language, sexual material and thematic elements. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.