There are currently discussions about a third “Happy Death Day” film. (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)
“Happy Death Day 2U” has everything one would expect from a cynical cash-grab horror film: zero scary things, dumb character decisions, a girl dressing up as a blind French woman so there can be a comical slapstick scene where she hits someone with a cane. Wait, what?
Literally one day after the events of “Happy Death Day,” Tree (Jessica Rothe) is launched into an alternate dimension where she once again must die over and over again until she can discover the identity of her killer.
Yes, that is right; there are alternative dimensions in this movie. Props for some creativity when it comes to making a sequel to a “Groundhog Day” rip off, but it is just so ludicrous. One might think that something this ludicrous would contribute to something interesting, but nope. “Happy Death Day 2U” is not creative in the slightest; it is an incredibly ridiculous movie with no sense of identity.
“Happy Death Day 2U” is figuratively part of every genre one can imagine. It is part horror, part science fiction, part romance, part slapstick comedy, part dark comedy and part drama. A couple of these genres strung together can work and form a unique identity for a story, but all of them together create a hodgepodge of mismatching tones that make the movie feel like it is made for literally no one. Maybe a movie could pull off having a story with all of these genres mixed together, but “Happy Death Day 2U” is not that movie. “What a shocker,” is probably what people are saying sarcastically to that statement.
The genre that “Happy Death Day 2U” promotes itself as is a horror film, but there is very little of that and it is easily the worst handled genre in the whole film. The opening sequence of the movie with a character that returns from the first film (Phi Vu) is easily the most horror-based sequence in the whole film, and it is utterly ruined by how badly the scene is handled. The other horror elements are spread out over the rest of the movie, and it all feels undeveloped and rushed when it happens.
The other genres are also poorly done. The science fiction does not fit and just serves as an annoying and stupid reason for this movie to have a plot, the romance holds little weight to it, the comedy is unfunny and the drama, while having an interesting core, feels ultimately underwhelming and even non-existent in the scenes where it is not explicitly stated.
So the movie is a jumbled mess of tones and the story is beyond stupid and ridiculous, but those issues are not even the most egregious or mind-boggling of problems that this movie possesses. No, the biggest issue with “Happy Death Day 2U” is that it takes everything good about “Happy Death Day,” which is very little, and does it poorly this time around.
While the first “Happy Death Day” was terrible, there was still a strong through-line and overarching story about someone learning to be better and to face their demons instead of ignoring them. In “Happy Death Day 2U,” Tree just has to make a decision about either returning to her own reality or staying in the dimension she was transported to. Granted, there is a dilemma to this that Tree has to deal with, but the handling is so poorly done that it only really feels like an important force to the story in the scenes where it is present.
The one good thing that stayed around from the first movie is Tree’s actress, Jessica Rothe. Rothe manages to do a great job with the role and really sells the emotional moments of the film. She is quite a talented actress and it would be nice to see her appear in future films, but only if they are deserving of her talent, and not more “Happy Death Day” films.
All “Happy Death Day 2U” has to offer is a strong leading actress and an emotionally poignant dilemma, but both of these are so good that it is honestly a shame that they were wasted on a movie as awful as this.
Final Grade: D-