Film review: Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), directed by Joe Dante
In New York business man Daniel Clamp (John Glover) wants to expand. To fully be able to do so he just needs Mr Wing (Keye Luke) to sell his old, Chinese curiosity shop. Mr Wing refuses but dies shortly afterwards. As the shop is demolished Gizmo the Mogwai (voiced by Howie Mandel) finds himself homeless – but not for long!
A genetic scientist working in the Clamp office building discovers Gizmo and brings him to the lab. It just so happens that Gizmo’s old friend Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) and girlfriend Kate Beringer (Phoebe Cates) from the original 1984 film work in the very same office building, after having relocated to New York for work.
Now if only they can smuggle Gizmo out of the building before he gets wet or is mistakenly fed after midnight. Imagine what would happen if the Gremlins got their scaly paws on all of those genetic experiments Doctor Catheter (Christopher Lee) has going on in the lab.
Also starring Robert Prosky as Grandpa Fred, Robert Picardo as Forster, Haviland Morris as Marla Bloodstone, Dick Miller and Jackie Joseph as the Futtermans, Gedde Watanabe as Mr Katsuji the tourist, Kathleen Freeman as Microwave Marge, and Tony Randall as the voice of Brain Gremlin.
I’m in two minds about this film. I remember the first time I saw it – it was late in the evening around Christmas or New Year’s, the whole family had a cold and for some reason my sisters and I sat up and watched this – and laughed our heads off. At the time I don’t even think I had seen the first film, but it didn’t matter. Gizmo was ADORABLE (gosh, he still is) and the antics of the Gremlins were hilarious, especially the one with the glasses.
Seeing it now, the cutaway scene with Hulk Hogan is incredibly forced, but the Leonard Maltin review of the Gremlins video is still pretty funny. The lampshading of how ridiculous the rules are is clever – I’m guessing it’s based on critical comments after the first film was released, because the rules are stated very simply and never questioned: sunlight kills them, don’t get them wet, don’t feed them after midnight. Yes, what if you fed them before midnight but a seed got stuck in a tooth and didn’t dislodge until after? Can you clean them with wetwipes? Can you give them water to drink? Poor Billy gets exasperated because how should he know? He just knows what happens if the rules are broken.
Gizmo, knowing full well what happens if water should accidentally drip on him, still leaves the relative safety of a filing cabinet drawer and sticks around to watch a caretaker fiddle with a tap, which of course proceeds to shoot spurts of water in his general direction. And he still sticks around, which of course he does or there wouldn’t be much of a film.
On a more disturbing note, puppet torture. We know the Gremlins are devious creatures, but the lengths they go to in order to cause Gizmo pain and suffering is horrifying when you stop to actually think about it. If they did equivalent things to a human, it would be an R-rated film. Not that I’m complaining about this, because hey, darkness. It’s oddly refreshing, especially considering this is meant to be a film for a younger audience. (It’s PG-13 in the US, 12 in the UK and 11 in Sweden.)
Then there’s the scene with Kate in the elevator, which carries some serious rape symbolism. Oh yes, speaking of which – this film also implies that a female raping a male is humorous. (The Gremlin who downs a genetic brew and becomes a luscious female Gremlin, who then proceeds to make sexual advances on Forster. He may have managed to fight her off, but he resigns in the end, and the mental images of Gremlin-on-human action are just too disturbing.) … (You’re welcome.)
Gremlins 2 is basically a very strange film (although not as strange as Brain Gremlin’s accent – I mean, what is that?), and it’s not half as funny now than the first time I saw it. Maybe I’ve been watching too many films with the view to write about them on the Internet as opposed to just being entertained for a couple hours or so, but parts of this film which are played for laughs are technically more terrifying than they are funny.
Still, the use of puppets instead of CGI is great. Not that the special effects of the day would have been convincing enough to work, realistically, so puppets was really the only option. You get a much better emotional connection to something that’s actually real than if it’s just CGI anyway. Like Yoda. If Gremlins was done today it would most likely be all CGI … and there’s another “oh please gods no” thought: re-making Gremlins. Please don’t, Hollywood. Gizmo might still be heart-wrenchingly cute if he was just a computer animation, but because he’s a puppet it looks like he could actually exist.
So yeah, Gremlins 2: The New Batch isn’t as good or as funny as I remembered, but it’s still very amusing and goes to surprisingly dark places.
3 out of 5 salad bars.