The little green hooligans that nearly demolished the Spielbergian universe of Anytown U.S.A. in 'Gremlins' return for this sequel, which sees them invade corporate America. Inside a state-of-the-art office building, which also houses a cable network and a lab department that experiments on gene mutations, the reptilian creatures wreak havoc while biding their time for the sun to set and spread their brand of mayhem on an unsuspecting Manhattan. Cultural jabs abound, several more subtle than most, in an outlandish and anarchic narrative that replaces much of the first movie's dark comedy with Looney Tunes-type nonsense while perceptively deconstructing its necessity as a sequel.
These attempts at self-referential humor are not always apparent since so much of the script by Charles A. Haas follows the same blueprint as Chris Columbus's original story, but that's precisely part of the movie's weirdness and hilarity, only with a pinch of cynicism and maniacal absurdity to add a bit more zing to the overall dish. Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates reprise their roles as Billy and Kate, now living in New York but remaining as naively innocent as before. The payoff is in seeing another of Kate's childhood horror stories interrupted by impatience or Billy explain the mogwai rules and have them exposed for their arbitrariness. Dick Miller and Jackie Joseph as the Futtermans also return after years of recovery and forced to relive their earlier experiences.
Serendipity — that, or simple plot convenience to get things going, in which case it's still pretty funny — has the young couple reuniting with Gizmo, but not before painfully spawning four new friends. Keeping to the stereotype of sequels being bigger than their predecessors while retaining the same formula, the horror comedy features a reawakened Stripe with a much more menacing appearance and eventually evolving into a black widow hybrid. But rather than being a complete repeat, the follow-up also includes a few new memorable faces like Brain, Daffy and Greta. George, who takes after Edward G. Robinson, and Lenny are a twisted yet delightfully sly homage to John Steinbeck's classic novel.
Sometimes poignantly clever but almost always wittily cartoony, the jokes range from the blatantly obvious to the craftily suggestive. Many don't muster the laughter they portend, such as Greta overstaying her welcome towards the end or Mr. Clamp's childlike enthusiasm (wonderfully hammed up by John Glover), but when done right and with very little force, the gags are piquantly incisive and border on brilliant. Keeping in mind that Clamp is a media and real-estate mogul, his logo literally holds the world in a deadly grip that reshapes it to his wishes. After mentioning the corporate tycoon's preference for movies in color, we later see a colorized version of 'It's a Wonderful Life' playing on a small screen in Clamp's office, a point of controversy going on at the time.
'Gremlins 2' isn't quite the equal of its predecessor, but it sure comes pretty damn close with several irreverent and satisfying laughs. The devilish little monsters also show their love for everything and anything horror as they satirize their own film. Christopher Lee brings a Hammer Films quality to his role as the sinister Dr. Catheter (yes, you're supposed laugh at his name) and has a strange Ray Harryhausen moment when Bat Gremlin first takes to the air. The tongue-in-cheek humor continues with a Grandpa Munster-lookalike that goes from late-night TV host to news reporter and when seeing John Astin, who's best remembered as the enduringly kooky Gomez Addams, be the unwitting cause of all the mischief. No matter how we slice them, dice them or fry them, this new batch of Gremlins is a subversively witty and fun mockery.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Home Video brings 'Gremlins 2: The New Batch' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD25 disc inside a blue eco-case. At startup, the disc goes straight to a still photo with music playing in the background and generic menu options.
Warner unleashes 'Gremlins 2' to Blu-ray with a fairly cleaned-up 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1). It's not a complete smash, but a definite improvement over previous presentations, especially in clarity and resolution.
Fine object and textural details are nicely-defined on the little, hairy body of Gizmo as well as the clothing and facial complexions of the human cast. The reptilian, scaly bodies of the Gremlins are also very distinct and look pretty darn slimy. However, the print used is showing its age with lots of blurriness throughout, although a thin veil of grain remains intact and consistent, giving the image an appreciably cinematic appeal.
Contrast is slightly dull and on the lower end of the grayscale, and highlights tend to posturize slightly with some scenes of bright lights flashing into the camera coming off a bit too strong and hurting the eyes. Black levels are stable with good shadow details, but they appear mostly murky throughout. Colors, particularly the primaries, can be quite bold, yet they lack the energetic pop expected of these types of comedies. In the end, it's not a complete loss and looks pretty nice on high-definition for the most part.
The wild party continues on Blu-ray with this better DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. But like the video, it's not a complete knockout.
The main concern is some of the higher frequencies peaking a bit too high and coming off rather bright, generally happening during actions sequences accompanied by Jerry Goldsmith's score. Dynamic range is well-balanced and clean for the most part though, but those couple scenes distracted somewhat. On the low end, however, bass provides a nice kick to certain moments, like the scene when the Gremlin plays the pipe organ. The rest of the front soundstage displays a wide and welcoming image with intelligible vocals in the center of the screen. Although silent for a majority of the movie's runtime, rear activity also surprises with a few discrete effects and decent directionality, most notably during Electric Gremlin's scenes.
Overall, the lossless mix is pretty satisfying for a twenty-plus year-old horror comedy.
The same set of special features from the DVD is ported over.
In 'Gremlins 2: The New Batch,' the little green creatures return and invade corporate America in this wittily incisive and satirically droll follow-up. Billy, Kate and Gizmo also return with the help of Mr. Futterman and media mogul Mr. Clamp to do battle before the devilish monsters take over Manhattan. The Blu-ray features improved video and audio though it's nothing definitively impressive. Bonus materials are the same found on the DVD release, with the highlight being an alternate home video sequence, making this a good purchase for fans.