"Happy Death Day 2U" follows college student Tree Gelbman, who again finds herself dying over and over until she can reveal her killer's identity.
Living the same day over and over can get pretty monotonous – or terrifying, if you’ve got somebody in a baby mask knifing you constantly.
Wait a minute, that’s what we wrote a year and a half ago about how “Happy Death Day,” the hit rom-com horror comedy, follows the “Groundhog Day” template to a T. But knowing that is only half the battle in the new sequel “Happy Death Day 2U” (in theaters Wednesday), which has a Marty McFly in the ointment.
True, the follow-up still has shades of Bill Murray’s classic “Groundhog,” since college student Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is forced to again keep reliving her birthday over and over again while a knife-wielding psycho wearing a cherubic Bayfield Babies mascot mask is on the loose.
Tree (Jessica Rothe) faces another time loop of being stalked by a killer in the sequel "Happy Death Day 2U." (Photo: UNIVERSAL PICTURES)
This time, though, director Christopher Landon has introduced a whole “Back to the Future” sci-fi element that explains the movie’s core conceit and adds the wrinkle of parallel dimensions. (No, really. This is far beyond a horror flick at this point, folks.) As Tree exasperatingly says, “Do I look like I know what the multiverse is?”
Hey, even the same character who referenced “Groundhog Day” in the first “Happy Death Day” makes mention of “Back to the Future II” in the sequel.
Here are five things that make “2U,” the latest chapter in one of the most straight-up fun horror franchises, the next best thing to a return trip in the DeLorean:
Ryan (Phi Vu) wonders how another version of himself popped up in "Happy Death Day 2U." (Photo: MICHELE K. SHORT)
Meet the new Doc Brown, only younger.
Ryan (Phi Vu), dormmate to Tree’s love interest Carter (Israel Broussard), is a main character in the sequel because his quantum mechanics thesis project has a pesky tendency of creating time loops when activated. Not quite a lovable mad scientist a la Christopher Lloyd, but he does come into conflict with himself, rather literally.
Tree (Jessica Rothe, with Israel Broussard) eyes the machine that's totally messing up her life in "Happy Death Day 2U." (Photo: MICHELE K. SHORT)
The timeline needs to be fixed because stuff’s gone kablooey.
“2U” picks up where the first “Death Day” left off but quickly negates the happy ending and puts Tree back in the hated time loop. (Her raging at the realization is a highlight.) Yet, like Marty finding out he needs to have his parents meet in the 1950s in “Back to the Future” or fix the Biff-ruled wasteland in that sequel, Tree discovers certain things and people have changed this time around – for better and for worse.
Tree faces multiple deaths in order to fix her hairy situation in "Happy Death Day 2U." (Photo: UNIVERSAL PICTURES)
Tree’s multiple deaths have a greater purpose.
The first film had its main character navigate instances of being murdered again and again so she could figure out the killer. That gets a tweak in “2U”: Fixing the time loop means she has to kill herself a bunch of times, from skydiving without a parachute to jumping into an industrial tree shredder. Unfortunately, like in “Happy Death Day,” every death takes a toll on Tree’s body. At least Marty’s meddling with the space-time continuum was never this deadly.
Tree (Jessica Rothe) and Carter (Israel Broussard) are a new couple dealing with changes in their relationship in "Happy Death Day 2U." (Photo: MICHELE K. SHORT)
Hard decisions need to be made.
With shades of “Back to the Future III,” where Doc Brown is in love in the Old West and unsure of returning to the present, Tree has to weigh which timeline she wants to be in, since it means choosing between loved ones. There are lessons to be learned, too, as one of them tells Tree, “The best kind of love changes you. It makes you a better person.”
The mysterious baby mask killer haunts Bayside University once more in "Happy Death Day 2U." (Photo: MICHELE K. SHORT)
But don’t forget about the baby mask killer.
While “Happy Death Day” gleefully mashes up more genres and inspirations, its signature villain still lurks at the heart of the franchise. Tree has a lot to chew on in various time-loopy subplots, but she and her friends also have to take down the murderous menace hunting them. Now that’s what you call multitasking.
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