Movie Review: GREMLINS 2

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Movie Review_ GREMLINS 2Warner Bros.
1990
PG-13

“They put me on at 3am. People who are awake at 3am aren’t afraid of the Wolfman. The only thing that frightens those people is sobering up and going to work.”

The rules are the same but the laughs are bigger and the thrills are better. This time Billy and everyone’s favorite Mogwai, Gizmo, must face off against a new batch of Gremlins that definitely think New York is their kind of town.

There’s no denying that the original Gremlins is a classic. It managed to take a standard horror movie premise and turn it into a whimsical Christmas gem, which remains so to this day. So, of course it was inevitable that it would get a sequel to cash in on all the merchandising…er, movie magic that it’s spawned since. The only problem being that they waited six years to actually make one. And while the suits at Warner Bros. and Amblin Entertainment managed to get the original director Joe Dante to make the sequel, Dante had no interest whatsoever to do so.

And who could blame him? The story in the original Gremlins was wrapped up nicely, with Mr. Wing walking off into the night with Gizmo, back to the safety of his shop, after a night of terrifying wackiness. Gremlins didn’t really need a sequel. And on the cusp of the Summer of 1990, we got a sequel, whether we wanted one or not. And boy howdy, what a sequel.

I don’t think anybody was prepared for what we got when we sat down in the theater seats, awaiting the second installment of mogwai wackiness. If we were expecting something like the first one, we were sorely disappointed. Instead, we were treated to a biting satire of sequels in general, as well as a gleeful deconstruction of the first Gremlins movie.

We begin this movie with the death of Mr. Wing, along with the demolition of his shop, forcing Gizmo to vacate and suddenly finding himself the acquired property of scientists working in a New York high-rise business building owned by the Clamp Corporation. Coincidentally, this is where Billy and Kate from the first movie have ended up working at, and manage to rescue Gizmo. Of course, it’s just a matter of time before two of the Three Rules get violated, and soon the entire business building is overrun by the nasty scaly gremlins. And one of ’em has gained some super-intelligence and has plans for world domination.

Of course, when I first watched this movie in the theaters back in 1990, I didn’t really like it as much as the first one. Because, like pretty much everyone else, we were expecting something like the first movie, and were confused as to the tone and general absurdity of this one. While the concept of different style of mutated gremlins was cool (Spider Gremlin! Electo-Gremlin! Super-smart Gremlin with the voice of Tony Randall!), we also got a very thinly veiled jab at the movie industry’s need to do sequels that gleefully goes for the jugular. The Clamp Corporation is clearly a send-up of the Ted Turner mass media empire of the day, complete with a division that handles the colorization of classic movies. We have the late, great Christopher Lee as a mad scientist that stumbles upon the whole genetic splicing of the Gremlins thing. There’s also a wacky meta thing where the Gremlins apparently break into the theater you’re watching this at and breaks the film, causing Hulk Hogan to get rather annoyed at it. I am not making that up. Apparently, there’s an alternate take of this bit for the VHS release, but I’ve only really watched this at the theater when it was released, then on one of the premium cable movie channels at my grandparents’ place whenever it was on when I was visiting, so I only know the theater-centric version. And, to top it all off, the big climatic ending involves a musical number.

And it is just that kind of gleeful abandon and surreal absurdity that, over time, makes Gremlins 2: The New Batch to be just as good–dare I say, even better–that the original Gremlins. Because you cannot compare this with its original counterpart. This is a perfect example of comparing apples with pineapples. They both have the word “apple” in their names, but they are completely different fruits. Or, a berry and a fruit, if you want to get pedantic about apples technically being berries or whatever. What I’m trying to say is, Gremlins 2 is a different entity in and of itself.

So, watch and enjoy Gremlins 2, and admit to liking it. Just don’t try and compare it with its predecessor.

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Movie Review: GREMLINS

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movie-review_-gremlinsWarner Bros.
1984
PG

“You say you hate Washington’s Birthday or Thanksgiving and nobody cares, but you say you hate Christmas and people treat you like you’re a leper.”

Don’t ever get it wet. Keep it away from bright light. And no matter how much it cries, no matter how much it begs…never, ever feed it after midnight. With these instructions, young Billy Peltzer takes possession of his cuddly new pet. Billy will get a whole lot more than he bargained for.

Say what you will about the 1980s. I realize that there are many out there that weren’t even born in the era that gave us many a pop culture item that kids nowadays wear “ironically”, or however they’re doing things nowadays. I pity those who have never known the magical whimsy that came with such imaginative tales that sprung from the era that gave us Steven Spielberg’s peek work in the fantastic, inspiring others to release such classics as…well, this movie right here: Gremlins.

Yeah, I know. The dismount and nailing the landing could have uses a bit of work, but I’m old. No shame whatsoever. Anyway…

I would think that, at this point, pretty much everybody knows about Gremlins. In that “I haven’t seen it, but I know about it” kind of way, I would think. If you haven’t seen it, well…again, I pity you. Because, in my not-so-humble opinion, Gremlins seemed to capture that bit of lightning in a bottle, mixing the whimsical family comedy with dark fantasy horror elements in a way that just inexplicably worked.

In case you’re wondering, I wasn’t able to get around to watching Gremlins until much later. This was due to my parents being rather strict as to what I could and could not watch as a mere grade-schooler. And since Gremlins had that verboten-until-viewed-first-by-the-parental-units PG rating, they deemed it too scary for my 10-year-old self to watch. Of course, this necessitated me to rely not only on my school chums who were able to watch it before me to experience the movie vicariously, but also with the special promotion that the local Hardee’s did, with individual book-and-record movie adaptation that came at a special price when you ordered some kind of combo, I can’t remember exactly. The problem was, since we went into the town that had said Hardee’s rather infrequently, we only got one of the multi-part set that was in the middle of the story. We didn’t get any more of those. I have no idea why.

Regardless, I finally was able to watch the movie a couple of years later, when we bought it on VHS, and despite all of the hype that my over-imagination built up, after watching it for the first time, IT WAS THE MOST AWESOME THING EVER. Yes, even after only having the plushy dolls and various other promotional brick-a-brack for visual references, and taking what I could piece together from second-hand descriptions and filling in the blanks with my imagination, Gremlins stil managed to exceed my fairly high expectations, and then some. Which is kind of a rare thing.

I think that the major part of what makes Gremlins such a classic was the juxtaposition of what is essentially a Christmas comedy injected with a healthy dose of dark fantasy and horror. And like a peanut butter, jelly and bolognia sandwich with cheese, it seems like an unholy combination, but it works and is delicious, I swear (stop making that face).

The story should be very familiar by now: Small town young adult receives a gift of a completely adorable furry creature of myth that comes with three specific rules of care (the last of which is the topic of many a pedantic discussion), the rules are broken pretty much immediately, and wackiness ensues.

Look, I can go on and on about how amazing this movie is. I could also go into specifics as to my favorite scenes and quotes. No, I’m not going to. If you have seen this, you understand what I’m saying. If you haven’t, for whatever reason you’re using to not watch it (and I hope it’s not that “It was from before I was born” non-argument crap), get over it and watch Gremlins. Multiple times. I implore you. Do so now.