New Line // 1988 // 93 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // August 5th, 2003
Get ready for seconds...they're back.
Two years after the initial Critter infestation, a beer swilling nimrod discovers some Crite eggs in the abandoned Brown barn. He does what any right minded inebriate would do: he sells them to the local junkman for a case of Schiltz. The unpolished antiques merchant in turn sells them to the local church and day care center as "prime Easter Eggs." Apparently, that mangy annual rabbit likes to leave malformed alien ovum weeping moldy mung as children's tokens of Christ's resurrection. Anyway, the little loads hatch and immediately attack the groin of the town sheriff. Then they hit the local fast food feedbag for an all-you-can-eat seat at the buffet. It's not long before one-time village idiot, groan time Charlie (who doesn't walk like-a this-a) and his fellow bounty hunters (yep, seems even in outer space they're hard up for available clean-up crew personnel) Ug and Whatshisshape show up to complain about these rabid rat droppings re-infesting everything; that and the killer case of jet lag one gets traveling 800 million light years to play over-exaggerated exterminators. Still, a few faux photon torpedoes later and the wild wooly weirdos are on the run. But it takes the public pariah Brad Brown, coincidently back in Grover's Bend to visit his granny, to figure out a way to snuff these suckers out once and for all. If he can't there is no hope for humanity...or for being able to call this movie Critters 2: The Main Course. Huh?
Long before Joe Dante revisited the Gremlin's series and reconfigured it as a social/pop culture commentary Warner Brothers cartoon featuring those famously craven little creepies, Critters 2 paved the way for the mixing of mini monsters with mirth to achieve a horror hybrid: the comic creature feature. Indeed, even the subtitle "The Main Course" was semi-stolen by the much bigger ersatz blockbuster and reconfigured as "The New Batch" (real original guys!). But make no mistake about it: a good three years before the mogwai got a cinematic callback, the original spawns of Spielberg were doing lame sight gags and verbal humor, all on a budget about one tenth of the craft services bill on Uncle Joe's jump and jive. And maybe even doing it a bit better. Gremlins 2 tried to turn irony on its head for the sake of several dozen now-dated mass media references. The fact that it felt like a direct retort of everything the previous deranged dark comedy stood for took audiences back a baby step. Your average movie buff likes their sequels and rip-offs carved from the same packing crate the original was delivered in. Ever since the American film fan got their first glimpse of supernatural rug rats, in the form of the articulate turds in the Kim Darby/Jim Hutton classic Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, they just can't seem to get enough whacked out weebles. Indeed, the success of the plethora of plagiarizing paragons to pissed off puppets -- Ghoulies, Hobgoblins, Munchies, Boogens, Dolls, Evil Toons -- indicates that, as long as it's angry and semi-animated, the lovers of midget monsters will sit (or at least fast forward) through just about anything. It also explains the two future return trips to this long washed out well of Crites for sequels three and four.
In reality, Critters 2 is a scosh better movie than the original. It understands that the first film's desire to be a retread scarefest, a look back over the shoulder of scares to a time when alien invasion movies consisted of B-actors and bad effects, was a little too heavily housed in the horror hillside. Something as gobsmackingly goofy as a Critter needed the proper oral projectile planted firmly in jowl to realize its full fun fright potential. The Main Course answers this challenge by giving us a Playboy Centerfold space alien bounty hunter (complete with staple), a silly salad bar set piece featuring multiple manic mega-mice getting their necessary roughage, and Eddie Deezan. Back for seconds are Don "Charlie" Opper (who made a whole career out of playing this pre-Gumped Forrest) and Scott Grimes, looking a little longer in the tooth than the two years the movie claims have passed since last we saw his Brad Brown (oddly, it only was two years between films. The kid must have pigged out on growth hormones). Even the original Run Tum Tugger himself, Terrance Mann, AKA. the poor producer's Tim Curry, is back for another go round as the unfortunately named Ug (perhaps so dubbed from the actor's reaction to this job offer?). The fact that, shortly after his final spin as the single syllabled slayer he became a critter himself as the Beast for the Broadway version of Disney's "Beauty and the..." means that his time spent in Grover's Bend was not completely cootie free. Newcomer behind the camera Mick Garris, who parlayed this gig into making many of Stephen King's more successful TV miniseries, does a nice job of never letting the tone get too traumatic. Sure, there is some tasty gore here, and the Critters are occasionally threatening, but when they form a massive group ball of fur fury to fight off their attackers, you know this movie is not taking itself all that seriously.
Critters 2: The Main Course is presented by New Line in a "nothing much to it" DVD package that screams massive swindle. While this is a simple movie sequel that is part of an overall lesser film franchise, it would have been nice to find something more than Critters trailers and useless DVD-ROM filler as the only bonus content. Hell, even dopey little kid vids like Theodore Rex get that obnoxious Pic-a-Flick game to wile away some far too frequent juvenile free time. Anyway, the sound and vision make up, just a little, for the lack of extras. Critters, like all the other Crite shite offered digitally, is presented in an aspect ratio choice. One can go for the clean, pristine 1.85:1 original, or those with wee ones or without brains can opt for an open matte full screen presentation. Both look good, and since Garris is not out to arrange brilliant in-frame compositions, it's really a matter of personal preference (and in the case of full screen, dementia) as to which one to enjoy (if one can take pleasure in a Critters movie). Equally indecisive is the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, which is about as atmospheric as the void in space. Occasionally the channels come croaking to life, but more times than not we are witnessing a dialogue heavy soundtrack being pushed about to create some ersatz ambience.
Of all the cinematic flights of fright fantasy in the Critters catalog, this ensuing contribution is the best of the lot. In some people's minds it's like saying compared to a root canal, this is merely an extreme case of tartar. But all teeth toddling aside, Critters 2: The Main Course makes something like that Gizmo based garbage seem completely overblown. And we don't have to listen to Tony Randall act artificially British, either.
Review content copyright © 2003 Bill Gibron; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* DVD-ROM Content