Review: Happy Death Day 2 U doubles down on its concept and its star

Blumhouse's slasher sequel finds a very clever way back into the time loop, and gives Jessica Rothe the showcase she deserves

HAPPY DEATH DAY 2 U (Christopher Landon). 100 minutes. Opens Wednesday (February 13). See listing. Rating: NNNN

Happy Death Day 2 U doubles down on the streak of self-aware goofiness that made Christopher Landon’s first Happy Death Day so much fun, pivoting away from its slasher-Groundhog Day origins into a new, much weirder direction.

It’s still a genre film, but now it’s basically every genre, with Jessica Rothe’s Tree Gelbman learning the reason behind the time loop she thought she’d broken in the last movie just in time to get sucked back in. 

But now there’s a twist. Tree’s stuck repeating the same day over and over again, always resetting it with her death… but it isn’t quite the same day. That subtle divergence, and Tree’s gradual understanding and exploitation of it, makes Happy Death Day 2 U an ingenious new ride through the beats of the first film. 

Yes, it’s derivative, but Landon – now the writer as well as the director – never pretends it isn’t. He doesn’t just have a character reference Back To The Future Part II, he gets composer Bear McCreary to incorporate Alan Silvestri’s score, slowly bringing it forward as the horror stings recede. The movie morphs into a new shape right in front of our eyes, still somehow maintaining PG-13 decorum as Tree’s death count clicks ever upward.

And through it all, Rothe delivers another star turn as the wiser, wearier Tree, repeating and enriching her work in the first movie by finding new notes in her default state of irritated confusion, and making the most of the character’s hard-won growth the last time around. 

It’s a wonderful performance in a movie that knows exactly what to do with it. Don’t miss out… but make sure to watch Happy Death Day first, otherwise you’ll have no idea what the hell is going on.

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