Our review of Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Blu-ray), published June 1st, 2012, is also available.
Here they grow again!
Joe Dante's Gremlins was a big enough hit to warrant a sequel. The question of the hour: where could the gremlins go after destroying a small Midwestern town? How about everyone's favorite party hole, New York City? Gremlins 2: The New Batch saw the return of original stars Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, and Dick Miller, as well as newcomers Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), Robert Picardo (Dante's Innerspace), and John Glover (Batman and Robin). Warner finally lets loose Gremlins 2: The New Batch on DVD!
Facts of the Case
It's been a few years since the gremlin attack on Kingston Falls. Now engaged to be married, Billy Peltzer (Galligan) and his girlfriend Kate (Phoebe Cates) have moved to New York City in pursuit of the good life. Both work for the Trump-like business mogul Daniel Clamp (Glover) in his gargantuan state-of-the-art skyscraper—Billy works in the art department, while Kate leads tours of the building. On the other side of town, the old Chinese man who owns Gizmo (voiced by Howie Mandel) has passed away leaving the little Mogwai homeless on the streets of NYC. After being found by two wacky scientists, Gizmo is taken to a creepy lab in the Clamp building run by the shady Dr. Catheter (Lee). Through a short series of events Billy finds Gizmo and sneaks him out of the lab in his backpack. While awaiting the end of the workday, Gizmo is accidentally hit by a faulty water fountain and—presto-o, change-o—more Mogwai appear! Of course, we all know exactly where this is headed…soon the Mogwai eat after midnight, which in turn produces slimy, vicious gremlins! Now Clamp's building is under siege by everyone's favorite mean, green eating machines, and it's up to Billy and his crew to figure out a way to stop them before they take a permanent bite out of the Big Apple!
Let's cut to the chase: I think I actually liked Gremlins 2: The New Batch better then the original film. It's funnier, faster, and goofier than the first (which was no slouch itself when it came to grisly entertainment), sporting an anarchic spirit in the vein of Chuck Jones. This isn't the first time I've liked the sequel better than the original; Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey, A Very Brady Sequel, and Addams Family Values were all better than their original counterparts. Whereas the first film was really a horror story fitted with comedic elements, Gremlins 2: The New Batch retains a feel of a zany satire feel while still conjuring up a scary atmosphere when the need arises. And if that weren't enough we get a cameo by '80s superstar wrestler Hulk Hogan! What could be better than that?!?
Gremlins 2: The New Batch is filled to the brim with both wonderful character actors and original, funny creatures. On the human side we have returning players Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, and the ever wonderful Dick Miller as Murray Futterman (who was thought to have perished in the previous film). All three play their parts with dead seriousness, knowing it's the only way the protagonists can pull off this material. Peppered along the way are a number of wonderful supporting actors, including Kathleen Freeman (The Blues Brothers) as a tipsy cooking show host, Robert Prosky (Dead Man Walking) as a late night horror show host turned news reporter, and Gedde Watanabe (Vamp, Sixteen Candles) as a wacky Japanese tourist who becomes a reluctant cameraman. Throw in Christopher Lee, Robert Picardo, and John Glover and you've got a first rate B-level cast. As for the gremlins, Dante has done a few minor comedic tweaks this time around. Instead of the monsters being generic clones of themselves, each one seems to have a distinct and often hysterical personality. One gremlin (voiced by the stuffy Tony Randall) can actually speak! Another pair of gremlins humorously mimics John Steinbeck's George and Lenny from Of Mice and Men. Yet another gremlin is based on Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, and the Tasmanian Devil all rolled into one. Making each gremlin a bit more comical and distinct really pays off—the laugh ratio is much higher this time around (and Dante even gets to take a few good natured pot shots at financial backer Warner Brothers).
As for the story…who cares? If you're seeing this movie for sharp plot details, go somewhere else. The screenplay is just one big backdrop for the gremlins to go wild. They came, they saw, they made a mess. In fact, Gremlins 2: The New Batch is really just a rehash of the first film (and that is a compliment). Some of the jokes are wonderfully subtle (there are a ton of gags featuring sly movie references spanning everything from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to all those great old time musicals) while others are just downright slapdash slapstick. I enjoyed the scenes where the gremlins escaped in the lab and drank all of the different concoctions and potions housed by Dr. Catheter. Ever seen a gremlin become a walking, talking mix of carrots, cucumbers, and lettuce? See Gremlins 2 and you won't be disappointed.
Some things are better the second time around. Gremlins 2: The New Batch is one of those things. It may be leftovers, but as Microwave Marge might say, "It's finger lickin' good!"
Gremlins 2: The New Batch is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Warner has produced a fine transfer of this film that will make fans squeal with delight. The colors and black levels are all very well detailed and solid while flesh tones appear natural and strong. In fact, aside of a quick pop of edge enhancement in one scene, I couldn't find a darn thing wrong with this transfer. This picture may not be completely reference quality, but it is very well produced.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English and has been newly remixed for home theater systems. I wasn't quite as thrilled with this 5.1 mix as I was the video presentation—while the track is generally clear of any hiss or distortion, overall I found this mix to be lacking in subtle directional effects. There are a good many spots where the surround sound feature kicks in, though otherwise this is a mostly front heavy track that isn't great (though it ain't too shabby either). Also included on the disc are Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround soundtracks in French, English, and Spanish, as well as French, Spanish, and English subtitles.
Being a fan of the film I was glad to see that Warner decided to give Gremlins 2: The New Batch an edition filled with some wonderful extra materials. Starting off this disc is a commentary track by director Joe Dante, actor Zach Galligan, screenwriter Charlie Haas, and producer Michael Finnell. I really enjoyed listening to this track—filled with stories and funny asides, all four participants seem to really enjoy the movie they've produced. As a bonus viewers will delight in hearing about deleted scenes and what was trimmed by the ever-present Mr. Spielberg (who was also a producer on the film). Overall this is a great and worthwhile listen for fans.
Next up is over 20 minutes of deleted footage from the film with optional commentary. Some of these scenes are full length while others are just extensions of previous scenes left in the film. While none of the sequences are especially intriguing, it is fun to have them on this disc. This is bookended with a humorous gag reel of flubs and mistakes by the cast, crew, and gremlins!
A behind-the-scenes featurette produced in 1989 is better than expected—while clocking it at only around five minutes, the short includes interviews with the cast and crew discussing how difficult it is to work with Gizmo and the rest of the gremlins. It seems the monsters have become "Hollywood-ized," demanding people be kicked off the set!
Finally there is "The Gremlins Files" game that takes viewers to specific scenes in the film, a theatrical trailer for the movie, and a pointless list of the cast and crew.
If you liked the original Gremlins, Gremlins 2 will make you even happier. Dante has let loose a barrage of jokes, puns, and gags that would make even the Zucker brothers blush. Warner's work on this disc is excellent—with great video and audio presentations and a nice batch of extras, Gremlins 2: The New Batch is easily worth its tag price. Recommended.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch is acquitted on all charges, except looting and willful destruction of property!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Commentary Track by Director Joe Dante, Actor Zach Galligan, Screenwriter Charlie Haas, and Producer Michael Finnell
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