Title: Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
Director: Joe Dante
Cast: Zack Galligan, Phoebe Cates, John Glover, Robert Picardo, Dick Miller, Christopher Lee, Robert Prosky
Gremlins 2: The New Batch is the sequel to Gremlins (1984), one of the films that took over the box office during the summer of 1984. Now that summer was a good one! At the box office we had Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) fighting for the top spot with other huge money makers like Ghostbusters (1984), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), The Karate Kid (1984) and Purple Rain (1984). Still, in spite of this tough competition, Gremlins went on to make huge bank. Joe Dante had established himself as a director of successful films like Piranha (1978) and The Howling (1981), but it was with Gremlins that he had his first huge hit. A sequel was a no brainer; unfortunately, Dante didn’t want to revisit the grueling experience of making a film like Gremlins. The studio went on to plan a sequel without Dante’s involvement (Gremlins go to Mars!) but since for whatever the reason, it never materialized, they approached Dante yet again offering him a bigger budget and cart blanche with the project, this is to say, he could do with the film whatever the hell he wanted; and that he did my friends, this film is pure Joe Dante every step of the way.
Joe Dante, next to one of the many Gremlins in Gremlins 2: The New Batch
The story centers once again around Billy and Kate, the two teenagers who confronted and destroyed the Gremlins on the first film. This time around, Billy and Kate are young adults and have moved from the small suburban town they lived on in the first film, to New York City! They both work in Clamp Plaza, an ultra modern building where everything is computerized! Meanwhile, as fate would have it, Gizmo The Mogwai gets sent to a bio engineering lab in the very same building! It isn’t long before Gremlins start reproducing, turning monstrous and destroying everything in sight! Will Billy and Kate have what it takes to stop these creatures before they escape the building and wreck havoc on New York City?
Gremlins 2: The New Batch is obviously a larger picture. Where the first film was an 11 million dollar picture, this sequel had 50 million dollars to work with. To the films favor, I will say that you do see the money up there on the screen, there’s literally thousands of Gremlins on this film tearing up the place. If you take a look at the first film, the gremlins are virtually indistinguishable from one another. But on Gremlins 2 they employed the talents of makeup effects guru Rick Baker. This is the guy responsible for making each Gremlin in Gremlins 2 different from one another; Rick Baker is the reason why we get Vegetable Gremlin, a Gremlin who talks, a female Gremlin, a can’t stop the laughter Gremlin, we get a Spider Gremlin; we even get an electrical Gremlin made up of pure energy! These variations make this sequel way more fun than the first. So yeah, this film is way bigger than its predecessor, we don’t only get more Gremlins, we also get a large amount of cameos on this one. This is one of those films filled with cameo after cameo, which of course makes everything that much more fun.
And speaking of fun, it seems that this was Joe Dante’s goal with this sequel, to make it funnier than the first one which in contrast played out more like a horror film. Honestly, this is where the first film is superior to this sequel in my book. What I loved about the original one is that it’s a bit darker in tone than this sequel, which is so bright, goofy and colorful by comparison. Gremlins 2: The New Batch feels like a live action Warner Brothers cartoon, which makes perfect sense when we take in consideration that Joe Dante is a true blue fan of the old Warner Brothers Cartoons, the ones with Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny . This is evident by the many slapstick gags that Dante squeezes into the film, the whole vibe of the film is cartoony; this is really what sets this sequel apart from the first film. The first Gremlins film is so much more of a horror film. By the way, Chris Columbus the writer behind the first film, had written a far gorier and scarier picture then the one we got. Columbus’s script had the Gremlins killing people in gory ways, but Dante and Spielberg softened the film up a bit because Spielberg himself thought the film had to be as family friendly in order for it to be successful. Still, even with the modifications to the script, the first Gremlins film has its scary moments. So much so that, along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the first Gremlins film was the reason why the PG-13 rating was created. The film wasn’t all that scary, but it wasn’t all that innocent either, so the PG-13 was created as a middle ground for films of this nature. But when compared to the first Gremlins film, Gremlins 2: The New Batch isn’t even remotely scary; it’s simply, goofy, cartoony fun.
The only negative thing I can really say about this movie is that it starts out like a normal film, with a story and everything, but somewhere along the line it turns into a series of vignettes or sketches if you will, with the Gremlins causing all sorts of mayhem. The film even gets a bit surreal and other times it turns into a musical? What I didn’t enjoy is that this sketchy nature of the film hurt it, because you don’t feel as if you’re watching a film, you feel more like you’re watching a series of gags. Yeah they are fun gags, but this sequel isn’t like the first one, which did feel like a true blue genuine film. Still, Gremlins 2: The New Batch has many good things going for it, mainly the creature effects which are still awesome by today’s standards; in fact, I love how the Gremlins are all real and palpable. These were amazingly animated puppets. I’m pretty sure if they made one of these films today, every Gremlin would be computer generated, and that would suck for me. But, thankfully, Gremlins 2: The New Batch is an amazing display of puppetry and creature effects. These Gremlins simply look awesome; the puppets seem full of life, Kudos to the puppeteers behind these creatures.
Finally, what makes this film so fun for me is that special brand of Joe Dante humor. There’s this unique kind of humor to his films that always puts a smile on my face. Dante’s love for WB cartoons is very present here; the film even starts out with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck fighting for the spotlight! All of Dante’s films are infused with this goofy, cartoony nature of the WB cartoons. This is after all the director behind Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). Many of Dante’s films have some kind of reference to these old WB cartoons; they were obviously a huge part of his upbringing. Final word? This is a fun film, it moves at a fast pace, something is always happening on the screen and well, Dante really ups the ante ; on this one we get more Gremlins than ever! The film has awesome monster effects, things get slimy and nasty, if you love those films from the 80’s that were always filled with slimy, gooey creatures, then this is the film for you. You’ll also find the huge amount of cameos entertaining, Christopher Lee, Rick Ducommun, John Astin, Leonard Maltin, even Hulk Hogan makes an appearance. Just don’t expect much of a story, this film plays out more like a series of gags one after another, still, this doesn’t make it any less entertaining, Gremlins 2: The New Batch though not superior then the original, is a worthy sequel in my book.
Rating: 4 out of 5
The pupeteers and their puppets on the first Gremlins film