When I heard about the first Happy Death Day film, I thought nothing of it. The trailer was cute but it didn’t do anything to impress me. I was skeptical that any slasher film in recent times could come out and do anything original. My friends wanted to see it and I went begrudgingly, thinking I’d be subject to horrible acting and endless jump scares. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had such incorrect predictions on how a film would turn out. Happy Death Day ended up being a real Halloween treat when it was released. I couldn’t believe how funny and fresh it felt at the time. When I heard about a sequel in development I became very nervous it would end up being terrible. After seeing Happy Death Day 2U, I am happy to say that my expectations were exceeded again.
There are so many reasons that this movie works so well, but there are two in particular. The first reason is that there is actually relevant story here to tell. Part of that story is actually finding out the reason behind Tree being stuck in the original time loop from the first film. Beyond that, there’s also Tree having to make peace with certain aspects of her life. I won’t reveal what any of those reasons are, but Tree has to deal with real emotional baggage in this movie. This story has a genuine heart (maybe even more so than the first film) and surprising amounts of emotion. It manages to blend horror, sci-fi, comedy, and drama almost perfectly. That’s a feat that not many films can achieve in their runtime.
The second major reason that this film works is Jessica Rothe. Rothe was great in the first movie but in the second movie, she proves that she is a superstar. One of the most committed comedic performers I’ve seen in some time, Rothe consistently gives this role her all and then some. When in comedy mode, she is a force to be reckoned with. She uses her voice, face, and her entire physicality all to comedic perfection whenever she’s on screen. She can be over-the-top but even subtle things that Tree would do had me laughing. Rothe also shows tremendous skill in dramatic acting here as well, she gets heavier material in this film. One scene in particular near the end of the film is profoundly moving and it all works solely because of her performance. Jessica Rothe is something special that Hollywood needs to take seriously, she’s phenomenal and on the rise.
The humor that made the first film so special is in full force in this sequel as well. From the opening scene of the movie to the ending credits, I was laughing. Writer/director Christopher Landon really knows how to pull a laugh out of an audience, almost every single joke in the movie lands. He also manages to blend humor and darker elements well, one of the most challenging things to accomplish in comedy in my opinion. Landon should be on the shortlist for every studio in Hollywood. He’s got the ability to direct in many genres (in one film in fact) and he’s worthy on any great project.
There aren’t too many negatives to the film overall. I will say that the origin of the time loop was a bit out of left field and a little less believable than I had hoped it would be. I wish it had felt like something a bit more organic for this world but it never made me avidly dislike the film. There are some new characters that get scenes with Rothe and they just aren’t on the same acting level as she is. Their lines would often fall flat when going up against her or any of the original film’s cast. The thing I liked the least was the addition of a mystery story (similar to the first film’s mystery) that just didn’t work to me. Certain elements of the story came out of left field and were a bit melodramatic compared to everything else. The new mystery felt a bit unsatisfying when it came to it’s conclusion, but it still didn’t ruin the whole movie for me.
Happy Death Day 2U is that rare sequel that is as good (and in some ways maybe even a little better) than the original. It uses everything we had in the first film in impressively fun ways and it all gels smoothly. Christoper Landon and Jessica Rothe should be instant A-listers after this film’s great creative success. I recommend seeing this film as soon as possible. It’s got humor, heart, and a dash of horror – what more could you want?