director Joe Dante
Clara and I did a Gremlins (1984) double feature, starting with the original and right after with the much later Gremlins 2: The New Batch which I am pretty sure that I never saw before.
I did have a friend who considered Gremlins 2 one of his favorite all-time movies. He had a goofy, perverse sense of humor that, now that I have seen it, seems quite well attuned to director Joe Dante’s manic, chaotic meta sequel. Where the original Gremlins felt a bit at odds with itself over its personality and identity, Gremlins 2 seems much the more pure Dante product, raging around pop culture like an incessant demon, beyond self-referential, just further and further into comic permutations.
Clara told me afterwards that she agreed with my friend and thought that the second film was funnier and slightly better because of it.
Me, I think it’s a hot mess of sorts, but one that seems to have strove for such a state of affairs. It certainly takes that tack from the very outset, featuring a Warner Bros. logo with Bugs Bunny atop that breaks the narrative of movie language much like Chuck Jones’ great Duck Amuck (1953). And this is just the opening sequence with characters who aren’t even in the movie the rest of the way. Dante breaks the “fourth wall” again, if you will, when the gremlins take over the movie projection and the film dissolves onscreen. They then start making shadow puppets and are finally yelled down by Hulk Hogan himself getting the movie back on track.
Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates are back on board, in New York now, in the employ of a Donald Trump type in a “smart” building. Gizmo gets picked up by a genetic engineer for the company, but of course all the rules get broken again and the gremlins come out and multiply, evolve, do a little of this, a little of that, a little of anything they can think of. It seems that the puppeteers and creative crew had a blast going off on every little thing they could.
It’s even more of a mess of a movie, but it’s chock full of film and cultural references, many right back to Gremlins itself. It’s a chaotic ride and a sort of ridiculous one too. It is kind of funny and pretty amusing. It’s even got a rather comic performance from Christopher Lee.
I’d say that the end result is about as good as the original film. It’s a more pure expression of the comic Id of Joe Dante, channeling his Tex Avery and Looney Tunes aesthetics ripping and riffing hardcore on the pop culture of the time.