Film Review – Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

by Nick Kush
Happy Death Day 2U

Is Happy Death Day 2U the most necessary sequel ever made? Absolutely not. The first Happy Death Day was a perfectly watchable film that knew it had something special in Jessica Rothe as a star. But Jason Blum is a shrewd business man, and he knew that there were profits to make in a sequel after the original grossed over $125 million worldwide on a mere $4.8 million budget.

Luckily for all of us, Happy Death Day 2U is a perfect companion to Happy Death Day in that it is a perfectly acceptable, fun comedy that puts its star front and center, coasting off of her sheer magnetism.

The following review will be spoiler free.


Directed By: Christopher Landon

Written By: Christopher Landon

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

Ryan (Vu) wakes up in his car after a night of drinking. Thinking nothing of it, he goes about his business, meeting a few friends (Sharma and Yarkin) to work on their thesis project together. But out of nowhere, Ryan is murdered by a killer in a baby mask.

Rather than fade off into oblivion, Ryan wakes up in his car once again, experiencing a large amount of déjà vu. He later runs into Carter, who is conveniently hanging out with Tree (Rothe). Upon explaining his predicament to each of them, Tree quickly realizes that they are in another time loop, only this time it’s Ryan’s death that resets the day.

But that’s not the end of it. It turns out that Ryan’s thesis project actually bends time, and when it’s activated, Tree is thrown into another, semi-similar timeline. With her previous knowledge of time looping and dying at the hands of a baby killer again and again, Tree must put the pieces together to fix Ryan’s thesis project and close all the time loops, while handling the differences and revelations that come with each piece of reality.

Blumhouse is Laughing All the Way to The Bank

I’m sure that the last thing you thought of when the end credits rolled over the screen of 2017’s Happy Death Day was “man, I can’t wait for the sequel!” I was the same way, having thought that the film and its ideas were over and done with and had no room for continuation.

But to director Christopher Landon’s credit, when journalists asked if he would direct a sequel, he said he was open to it, with the caveat that he would return only if he could crack a second story in this world. Clearly, he cracked something, because we have 2U now available in theaters.

And while most sequels go nuts with the budget and get way bigger, 2U is staying monetarily grounded, inching up the budget to only $9 million from $4.8 million, with most of that increase presumably going towards retaining these actors. As we speak Blumhouse is preparing for their Monday morning dump truck delivery of cash to their office after this movie kills it at the box office.

happy death day 2u

image via Slash Film

Jessica Rothe Continues to Be the Best Part of this Franchise

If nothing else, watch this movie for Jessica Rothe, who is still unbelievably charming. Rothe knows exactly what kind of movie she is in at all times, hamming it up with a wonderful winking exterior. I was curious to see how much Happy Death Day 2U would retread plot points, and for the first act, it does mostly that from a different perspective. But what makes it so much fun is Rothe, who has some great moments of frustration headlined by a hilarious retread of the same walk of shame from the first movie.

And while there’s plenty of hijinks to be had, I always forget that there’s genuine heart within these movies, as Tree is living in the shadow of her mother who tragically passed away a short time ago. There’s a few moments where Roth gets to emote, and they’re quite moving. What’s on the page is fairly standard, but Rothe has a presence to her that transcends these moments into something more.

Essentially, Jessica Rothe is quickly turning into one of my favorite actresses, and I truly hope that the rest of Hollywood takes notice.

happy death day 2u

image via

Happy Death Day 2U Ups the Comedy

One of the more unfortunate pieces of Happy Death Day was the flat horror elements. The film was never scary, and it was clearly hampered by its PG-13 rating when it should have been bonkers in the gore department to go along with its satirical edge. I have a feeling that Christopher Landon listened to these criticisms and rolled them into Happy Death Day 2U. The follow-up was never going to become R-rated — Blumhouse and Universal would lose out on too many box office receipts — so Landon doubled down on the comedy. There’s a few extended comedy sequences that are genuinely funny, especially one that showcases the wonderfully shallow and vain character played by Rachel Matthews.

Though Happy Death Day 2U will be categorized as a horror movie to have some sense of consistency with the first movie, it’s actually more of a comedy with a sci-fi bend thanks to the inclusion of Ryan’s thesis project. Horror fans might feel a bit disappointed, but if you’re judging this movie for what it aspires to become, it mostly works. (Mostly.)

happy death day 2u

image via Slash Film

Don’t Think About It Too Hard

If I were you, however, I wouldn’t question the internal logic of the film. Just let it wash over you — the film works much better this way.

Most things in film are better off not being explained. (Take a moment to reflect on all the failed prequels that have taken place over the years for confirmation.) While not totally original, the premise of Happy Death Day was a ton of fun. It wasn’t worried about the mechanics of how Tree was looping in time. It simply presented it to the audience who then accepted it for what it was because the movie didn’t even try to answer why it was happening.

Happy Death Day 2U is far more concerned with why and how characters are looping in time, and all the explanations hardly make much sense. The movie even halts for a considerable amount of time so that the characters can wrap their heads around the science of it all.

I. Don’t. Care. About. The. Science.

Just embrace the zippy feel that made the original so enjoyable!

I appreciate how this movie shifts focus from character to character, but the plot device at the center of all these moving parts is essentially a malfunctioning exposition machine. I get the feeling that this movie is trying too hard to feel cohesive. Um, can’t I just watch Jessica Rothe be fun? ‘Cause I kinda like that a lot more than half-assed explanations of quantum physics.

Relax, movie. Take a chill pill and let this fun cast do their thing.

happy death day 2u

image via The Wrap

Final Thoughts

Happy Death Day 2U focuses less on the substandard horror of the first film and more on the comedy, playing into its PG-13 rating rather than feel hampered by it. I’ve always considered the original Happy Death Day as a one-woman show with a few bit players that show their competency, but 2U shows that all of these actors have some chops, even if Rothe is still the best part of the movie.

Still, it’s best not to think about this movie too hard, as it makes as much sense as Bohemian Rhapsody getting a Best Picture nomination. (Come at me, internet!!!) The film unravels rather quickly when looking at it from this point of view, but the fact remains: Jessica Rothe is a pure delight, and I can’t wait for her to get a meaty role outside of this pleasantly silly franchise.

Grade: B-

happy death day 2u

image via Variety

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Olaf Lesniak February 16, 2019 - 5:07 pm

I don’t know what they’re gonna call the third one but the 4th one has to release in China as Happy 4th Day To You. They’ll somehow have to get past the censor board.

Nick Kush February 16, 2019 - 9:32 am

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