The splendid lead actress Jessica Rothe made watching the original entry in this slasher/Groundhog Day mash-up a complete hoot thanks to a versatile performance that switched between comedic genius and ferocious final girl. She’s back for the sequel and she’s still on fine form but this time we see a more vulnerable side as the film takes a diverting swerve into time travel territory. It directly references Back to the Future 2 but has more in common with Joseph Khan’s 2011 outstanding love letter to teen cult and horror, Detention.
Christopher Landon’s second outing in this franchise tries to right a few wrongs in terms of friendships and has a lot of fun with some new characters and old faces from the first film. ‘Fine Vagine’ student Ryan now has a narrative all of his own which follows the ups and downs of his science project and heated arguments with the college Dean.
The focus is still on how Tree handles her life choices and relationships with others. Landon clearly knows that Rothe is the ace card and he circles the story around her character’s emotional journey. Israel Broussad once again appears as the love interest and he’s joined by two new faces – Sarah Yarkin and Suraj Sharma – who make up a whizz team of science students who Tree befriends for their help and advice about the multiverse and time loops.
Landon cares not a lick about bad taste as he whisks the viewer through a suicide montage, jokes about Helen Keller, a slapstick scene and Tree rampaging across campus setting the world to rights. The humour is broader, the horror is lesser, the romance is abundant and the quantum mechanics chat is multiplied with the film running out of steam before it reaches its conclusion.
Whereas Detention knew its teen and horror references inside out, Happy Death Day 2U skimps on the smarts and loving nods for something less engaging. It’s a fun watch at points, with Rothe still a major charismatic draw but as is the problem with many sequels it just doesn’t possess the same freshness or magic as the original.