Happy Death Day 2U is an enjoyable, genre-mixing film that gives up the mystery to show a bigger heart.
Happy Death Day 2U sees director Christopher Landon return along with the cast, including the star of the first movie, Jessica Rothe, whose performance in the first film carried it to the levels we know it for now.
Happy Death Day 2U follows Tree (Rothe) as she is forced to lead her friends through how to survive a repeat death day after Ryan (Vu) accidentally changes the past for everyone but Tree, who must once again live through September 18th. The problem for Tree is that everything is different this time around; she must learn the changes to understand who the killer is and decide what she wants to change if the opportunity presents itself.
The story picks up where the first film’s finished, It showed us what would happen if somebody else when through the death loop and how quickly Tree would be to help end it. This is a smart choice because much like what Edge of Tomorrow did, we get people who could work together to get more information. Sadly, we don’t take this chance on. We just jump back to the original day, which Tree must relive, and we get a lot of scientific talk about what is going on because everything is different. We have a new killer, only for the story to not spend much of the time investigating this. This is a downer, but what the story does investigate is much more interesting. We focus on Tree learning that she could have a different outcome in her life, which shows us just how difficult decision-making could be if a major change came. This is a question a lot of us would ask on a daily basis, but Tree gets to figure out what would be best for her, which does bring a lot of thought to the film.
Happy Death Day 2U belongs to Jessica Rothe, who is fast becoming an icon for her performances in these films. The arc she took her character through in the first film was fantastic, from bitchy girl to open and understanding. This time we get to see a new arc to her character which lets her show off more skills as an actor. When we do dig into the cast more, though, it does feel like none of the stars get enough time to truly shine, with Israel Broussard, Phi Vu (who did seem like he was going to be the star of the film early on, only to not get enough time to do more than sit at a computer) and Ruby Modine struggling, it is the three stars that get to use comedy (Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin and Rachel Matthews) who are the ones with anything else memorable to do.
Happy Death Day 2U has plenty of genres in play here. We do have a comic tone through everything, though this could be questioned because of the way they treat Tree’s suicide montage to reset the day, which could be too in-your-face and suggestive. The one-liners will get the most laughs, with one still making me laugh now. We do increase the use of sci-fi here because we look at how the loops could have been created, rather than just a fantasy element, which does lead to a lot of scientific talk, only making you question Ryan’s character because he goes from stupid stoner to genius scientist in the click of a finger. The biggest weakness in this film comes from the fact we don’t investigate the mystery of who the killer is this time, and nearly every scene involving the killer does feel like it was just thrown in to remind us it is meant to be a horror film.
Overall, Happy Death Day 2U is an improved sequel, that asks bigger questions, while taking on a new genre. It does have flaws with the lack of mystery, but let’s just let Jessica Rothe enjoy stealing the show for now.