Gremlins 2 is a sequel you either hate or love. Upon its release it received mediocre reviews mostly hitting on the movie for the lack of an actual plot or it being nothing more than a “bigger is better” approach. While those comments might be partially true, Gremlins 2 is more than just a rehash of the previous movie with a bigger budget. Created by the same group of people responsible for the first movie, Gremlins 2 is a clever spoof of the original.
Gremlins 2 takes place a few years after the events of Gremlins and Gizmo is still living with the old Chinese man. When the old man passes away Gizmo is discovered by a couple of scientists who have an office in Clamp Enterprises; a giant, state of the art skyscraper in New York. For the sheer of pure movie coincidence both Billy and Kate have left Kingston Falls as a couple and are working for media mogul Daniel Clamp in the very same tower. Billy finds out about Gizmo being in the building and saves him from the mad scientists, but has to leave him unattended for a while, asking Kate to take him home. During the time he is on his own, Gizmo manages to get wet giving birth to a whole new generation of Mogwais who now have an entire skyscraper full of the latest gadgets to terrorize.
Gremlins 2 is at first glance pretty much a copy of the original, but without the Holiday setting and a new location. Instead of a small town, they now have an entire office building to themselves. But unlike Home Alone 1 and 2, Gremlins 2 uses the original movie as a source to satirize. It’s poking fun at what is a ludicrous concept to begin with: a town run over by little creatures who multiply when they come into contact with water.
Gremlins 2 is a zany movie. Because of the already established rules and characters it wastes no time getting to the mayhem. There are a few new characters introduced but they are so cartoonish that we don’t need backstories to them: Daniel Clamp is a Donald Trump parody, Marla is the sexy career-obsessed boss of Billy and Grandpa Fred a TV-presenter dressed up as Dracula. Unlike the previous movie in which most of the Gremlins looked alike, Gremlins 2 has a multitude of characters. Like the seven dwarfs, all of the Mogwais produced by Gizmo have unique traits: One has a set of buck teeth, another ADHD, two have a black color variation instead of brown. Since the Clamp tower also hosts a laboratory where they perform tests on animals, the Gremlins are provided with all sorts of serums and potions that transform them creating a whole range of critters with truly unique features: one grows bat wings, another spider-legs, there is a girl Gremlin and one even turns into electricity. One of the most famous of these mutated Gremlins is the “Brain Gremlin” who develops full intelligence after drinking one of the potions. This provides the movie with a far wider variety of creatures than the original did. Because of the higher budget even Gizmo has been redesigned. He’s still the same cute furry critter, but this they made subtle changes to his appearance that make him even cuter: The eyes are bigger and the skin around his mouth is much more smooth.
The Clamp building is basically a character of its own. It’s an office building, but it includes a food court, a cinema, TV-studios, laboratories and all sorts of high tech features. This not only provides the Gremlins something to run amok with, but also a way to break the fourth wall. There are a couple of standout scenes that do this: first is one where movie critic Leonard Maltin is reviewing the first movie, another where Hulk Hogan is in a movie theater when Gremlins disturb the viewing and he addresses them and the audience at home. This all makes for a true meta-aspect of the movie. I think I’ve never seen a movie refer to its predecessor as a movie, and chances are we never will again. I don’t think anyone can truly get a grasp on what’s going on here and I since that was probably what Dante was trying to achieve I can only say he succeeded.
Even more so than the original Gremlins, Gremlins 2 is filled with cameos and in-jokes. There are lots of familiar faces whether live action or animated. Even Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck have a small role as they open the movie.
While Gremlins 2 misses the cozy holiday atmosphere from the original it does provide us with better production values and a wider variety in Mogwais and Gremlins. The original is the better movie, but this one has the better creatures. With all the sequels that use a retro approach to reboot a franchise like Jurassic World and Star Wars The Force Awakens did now might be the right time for the long rumored Gremlins 3 with a similar approach.