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Film Reviews Review: The unexpectedly delightful Happy Death Day 2U is the Back to the Future Part II of slasher flicks

Jessica Rothe as Tree Gelbman in Christopher Landon's Happy Death Day 2U.

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures/Universal Studios

  • Happy Death Day 2U
  • Written and directed by Christopher Landon
  • Starring Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard and Phi Vu
  • Classification PG
  • 100 minutes

rating

Early in Happy Death Day 2U, the delightful sequel to the unexpectedly delightful 2017 slasher flick, two characters note how similar the plot of their own film is to that of Robert Zemeckis’s Back to the Future Part II. It’s a deliberate echo of when those same characters noted the first film’s similarity to Harold Ramis’s Groundhog Day, in which the hero (there, Bill Murray’s cynical weatherman; here, Jessica Rothe’s caustic co-ed) is forced to live the same day over and over until learning some grand cosmic lesson. But if you’re going to out-loud compare yourself to the greats, you better live up to such audacity.

Remarkably, the Happy Death Day franchise does. Writer-director Christopher Landon’s quick-turnaround sequel is pure self-knowing nonsense – a smoothly executed, briskly paced mash-up of horror tropes, time-travel paradoxes and silly campus slapstick.

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Like BTTF2 and the looping adventures of Marty McFly, it’s almost impossible to follow HDD2U without watching the original; Landon builds in a few flash-back passages, but the fun of this sequel rests with noting the narrative ricochets of the first film. Also like BTTF2, the movie’s multiple-universe machinations – or multiverse string theory or whatever you want to call it – doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But it is damn fun to watch as Rothe’s college student Tree is again forced to live, and die, over and over again until she can help fix a tear in the fabric of time and space (or something; again, it was explained really fast).

By the time HDD2U wraps (complete with over-the-top nods to Alan Silvestri’s BTTF2 score), you will be confused. But also eager to revisit the film as many times as Tree herself dies. Which is quite a few.

Happy Death Day 2U opens Feb. 13

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