The first Gremlins was a surprise hit. It did great at the box office, spawned merchandising, and inspired a bunch of small creature horror movies. It also had a bit of controversy with people mistakenly taking their young children to see it. How do you follow up such a successful oddball movie when the director wants nothing to do with the sequel? You offer him total creative control over the Gremlins 2: The New Batch.
It occurs to me that some readers might think I’ll be dealing in hyperbole while talking about how off the wall Gremlins 2: The New Batch is. Just watch the video below and remember everything they propose is in the movie.
The Film: 3.5/5
In the first film, the titular gremlins terrorized a small town before our heroes stopped them. By the time of the second film, Billy and his girlfriend have moved out of the small town and to the big city of New York. They both have entry level jobs at the decidedly 90’s mega corporation Clamp Industries. Clamp has everything in it, a food court, a cable TV station, tour guides, and even a genetics engineering lab. And one day the lab comes into control of a small Mogwai. Not just any Mogwai, but our good friend Gizmo.
Billy happens to find Gizmo and breaks him out of the lab. Now our heroes are reunited again and Gizmo will be going to live with Billy and Kate in their New York apartment. Except first, Billy has to go on a business dinner with his boss while Gizmo stays in the office. Of course, Gizmo manages to get doused with water and spawns several mischief-seeking offspring. These little guys begin to wreak havoc on this large office building and insanity unfolds. Now, it is up to Billy, Kate, Gizmo and the recovering Mr. Futterman to save the day in Gremlins 2: The New Batch.
If it sounds like a ridiculous set of events for the story to unfold, that is because it is. Perhaps that is because Gremlins 2: The New Batch is a ridiculous movie. It is utterly absurd. That is part of why it caught audiences so off guard. When Gremlins was an unmitigated hit, Warner Bros immediately asked Dante to direct a sequel. Dante was weary from the first film. Also, he felt that the first film had a proper ending and didn’t warrant a sequel. After several years of unsuccessful attempts at starting the sequel, the studio returned to him. At this point enough time had passed that a sequel didn’t feel like a given anymore. So Dante took on the film under the one caveat, that the studio would grant him complete creative control.
Complete creative control is such a rare thing in big studio films. It is scary because a studio wants to be able to tinker to assure profitability. Dante didn’t have to worry about this and that is probably where movie-goers were so caught off-guard. Nothing was off-limits to Dante’s satire in Gremlins 2. Given that Dante didn’t want to do a sequel as he felt it would only be for profit, he mocked the profit seeking nature of sequels as well as the original film. There is a scene where they discuss the absurdity of the rules, specifically the food after midnight rule. Dante even satirized the complaints of parents taking their young children to the theater. Oh, and you thought Deadpool was original for breaking the fourth wall and being self-referential? Yeah, well the Hulkster breaks the fourth wall in a silly scene here.
Yeah, the whole thing is nuts. Gremlins 2 is zany and it flies in the face of sequel profiteering and movie making rules in general. Dante has said that it is the movie he was able to put the most of himself into. That being the case, I think it is clear that he hated the idea of making a sequel to the original for money.
On the one hand, the abandoning of the original’s dark tone for a more colorful zany movie probably alienated some of the original’s fans. On the other hand, it probably makes the movie itself a little easier to nail down an audience for. The issue with the first, is that it is often too dark for younger viewers and too humorous and not legitimately scary enough for older viewers who expect something more grueling. Despite that, it has found quite a following. Much the same way, Gremlins 2 has certainly found its fans. Being more colorful and humorous probably grants the sequel a wider audience, as younger viewers shouldn’t have any problems with it like the original. People who love satirizing Hollywood love its nature. And the craziness that Dante gives us is legitimately well-managed even when over the top. It certainly is a rare breed of film.
Thankfully, all of our favorites are back from the first movie: Zach Galligan as Billy, Phoebe Cates as Kate, Dick Miller as Mr. Futterman. Additionally, we have Dante regular Robert Picardo as the head of security, Forster, and the legendary Christopher Lee as the head scientist, Dr. Catheter. Also a standout is John Glover playing Mr. Clamp, the president of the company. Everybody does their role fine, but everybody also knows the stars are the gremlins. If you’ve watched that clip from Key & Peele, you will know just how all over the place they are. It is a ton of fun as they all wreak havoc.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch is a great, zany time that is safe for viewers of nearly all ages. I recommend catching it wholeheartedly.
Picture Quality: 3.5/5
Gremlins 2 comes with a very nice transfer. This transfer displays great colors and offers solid detail. The image is generally very sharp throughout. The contrast is strong through most shots. The image does occasionally fail to deliver in some of the darker scenes. Sometimes those darker scenes tend to obscure the detail and offer a little bit of murkiness in the details. None of it is too bad or noticeable though, so this is still a solid transfer.
Audio Quality: 4/5
Gremlins 2 likewise delivers a solid DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. All dialog is very clear though the entire film. I never noticed anything unintelligible. The special effects delivered well on the track as well. Everything had the depth needed and directionality is good, but just not great..
Special Features and Packaging: 3.5/5
Audio Commentary: Director Joe Dante, writer Charlie Haas, producer Michael Finnell, and actor Zach Galligan gather to talk about the movie. As is typical for Dante commentaries, this is rather humorous and Dante has a ton to share. The man must remember everything. Everybody seems to have fun chatting with him about the movie and you get some insight into how much Dante wanted there to be no more Gremlins sequels.
Making of Gremlins 2: The New Batch: Much like the movie itself, this mockumentary is pretty ridiculous. Everybody is playing character in this entertaining little bit. This is the kind of thing that would be cool to hit YouTube as a sequel is about to hit theaters.
Outtakes: With optional commentary shows a few scenes that deservedly got axed.
Gag Reel: These are all really pretty fun little diversions for a one time watch.
Alternate Home Video Sequence: This is a fun little add in for home video showing the gremlins wreaking havoc in that delivery method.
Theatrical Trailer: ‘Nuff said.
Gremlins comes packaged in the same three pack that Gremlins came in. You can get it individually, but you should just get this pack to get three great movies together.
Gremlins 2 Overall: 3.5/5
While not the classic that the first is, Gremlins 2 is still great in its own right. It ditches some of its horror and wittier dark comedy for zaniness and satire. The satire hits hard through the entire movie. Dante is unyielding in how he lampoons the Hollywood sequel machine here. As Hollywood relies more and more on sure things and sequels run amok (Seriously how many Scary Movies did we get) it continues to be relevant satire. The technical details won’t let you down and the special features are a treat for any fan. The best of the package is you get two great commentary tracks from Joe Dante who is always fun to listen to. I recommend this bargain release to anyone who enjoys comedy horror and I recommend checking the movie out for anyone who can set aside expectations for a movie.