Director Joe Dante only came back to direct the sequel when he was offered complete creative control. (Courtesy of Warner Bros.)
“Gremlins 2: The New Batch” is quite possibly the only narratively sound and comprehensible movie that makes the audience member wonder: “What did I just watch?”
Set in New York City in the technologically wondrous Clamp Tower, Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) finds Gizmo, the pet Mogwai he had in the first “Gremlins” movie. As per the events in the first movie, the Mogwai multiply, turn into ravenous and destructive creatures and wreak havoc on the technological wonderland that is the movie’s setting.
“Gremlins 2” shares several aspects that the first movie had, both positive and negative. It has an array of colorful characters, a location that is well developed to the point of being a character in and of itself and wonderful, dark comedy. It still has the issue of the nonsensical rules in regards to the Mogwai and there is a little sloppiness to the writing in terms of coincidental plot-progression moments and a potential source for drama between Billy and his girlfriend Kate (Phoebe Cates) that has almost no stakes in the movie.
As aforementioned, “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” is a baffling movie to watch, not just because of the ridiculous nature of it, but because it somehow manages to pull everything off without stopping the story or just being a cluster of nonsensical ideas.It seems impossible, but somehow a movie with a genetic research lab, a technologically eccentric building, Gremlins drinking vials of scientific formulas that turn them into an assortment of things from a vegetable to a bolt of electricity and a full out Gremlin-performed rendition of the John Kander and Fred Ebb song “New York, New York” manages to work extremely well.
Criminologist and physician Cesare Lombroso was evidently correct when he said, “Genius is one of the many forms of insanity.”
What helps to tie the movie together are the varying colorful and well-developed personalities that litter the world of Clamp Tower. Alongside Billy, Kate and Gizmo, Billy’s neighbors from the first movie Murray Futterman (Dick Miller) and his wife (Jackie Joseph) return. The new characters include the building’s owner and eccentric billionaire Daniel Clamp (John Glover), the overly orthodox chief of security Forster (Robert Picardo), Billy’s boss Marla Bloodstone (Havilland Morris), insane genetics scientist Dr. Catheter (Christopher Lee) and a monster movie show host who longs to be a television journalist named Grandpa Fred (Robert Prosky).
While the first “Gremlins” was more of a dark comedy, “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” is an all out absurdist comedy. The tone is a lot more light-hearted, and it makes self-referential jokes about not just itself, but the state of film in general. For example, Gremlins attack a person who begins to question the Mogwai rules, especially the one that says that they cannot be fed after midnight. In a way, it is the movie punishing the character for even pointing out how little sense it makes while at the same time telling the audience to not think too much about it.
The tone and the absurd ideas allow for the movie to have a lot of fun with itself. Watching all the eccentric characters interact with one another is always entertaining. There is a lot of creativity with the design of the creatures, especially when they drink the formulas and shift into different kinds of Gremlins and all of the crazy ideas spliced together is insanity of the best sort.
“Gremlins 2: The New Batch” is a movie with no right to be as good as it is, and everything stated above should be evidence to prove that point. Somehow though, the movie is good, courtesy of its well written and wacky characters, and thanks to what must have been sheer insanity on the part of the filmmakers.
Final grade: A-