HAPPY DEATH DAY 2 U
M, 100 minutes
Happy Death Day 2 U takes up the misadventures of Theresa Gelbman, the girl caught in a "time loop" compelling her to be murdered on her birthday only to be revived to go through the whole thing again and again.
In short, she is trapped in a "slasher" variation on Groundhog Day, or if you want a more up-to-date comparison, the new Netflix series Russian Doll.
Now she's back for another few rounds. What's more, she's become a better person, which could be a problem. The most refreshing aspects of the first film were her imperfections. She was mean, selfish, vain, bad-tempered and an expert in the art of the derisive eye-roll. The task of drawing up a list of those who might have wished her dead, was easy.
The eye-roll is still a feature, but those character-building lessons have had their effect and she's become marginally nicer. Fortunately, however, she hasn't lost the stroppiness which was the first film's only reason for becoming a hit.
The bad news is that she's up against a script looking as if it's been pasted together at random from bits written by a committee which has never met.
In reality, it's the work of the film's director, Christopher Landon, but I'm guessing he was in a state of desperation when he put it together
This time, the film has surrendered its "slasher" movie credentials, which were always shaky, and gone all out for comedy of a particularly chaotic kind.
Theresa (Jessica Rothe), known as "Tree", is not the only one to suffer from the workings of the "time loop". In the opening scenes, it exercises its influence on Ryan Phan (Phi Vu), one of her university classmates. He and his fellow science students have been perfecting a machine which is subsequently discovered to be responsible for the mayhem.
And there's more. As well as engineering repeats of a single day's events, it can send its victims back in time, and pretty soon Tree is caught up in a Back to the Future manoeuvre, finding herself re-living the months before the death of her much-loved mother.
She herself is still dying and coming back to life every day, but she has a new decision to make. Before Ryan and friends try to close the time loop and force the killing to stop, she must decide if she wants to stay in the past or return to the present.
Fantasies, no matter how far-fetched, can work as long as they conform to fiction's laws of internal logic, but this script makes no effort to deal with the fault lines which show up at various stages during its convolutions.
Nagging questions proliferate to the point where they can't be ignored, no matter how frenetic the action. They persist as the university halls become a haunted house teeming with the ghosts of the villains from the first film, who have been catapulted back to the past and licensed to carry on killing.
This eliminates the whodunit angle, turning the whole thing into an exercise in slapstick, and Landon is far from being a master of the visual gag.
Vu is fun to watch as Ryan struggles with the task of explaining the wacky cosmic theories powering the plot and Israel Broussard maintains his charm in the underwritten role of Tree's long-suffering boyfriend, but once again, it's Rothe's show. She had a small part as one of Emma Stone's roommates in La La Land but these two movies have brought out a chutzpah and gift for self-mockery that bode well for whatever she does next.
I just hope that that doesn't turn out to be another sequel in this series. Its Day is done.
Sandra Hall is the author of two novels (A Thousand Small Wishes and Beyond the Break), two histories of the Australian television industry (Supertoy and Turning On, Turning Off) and Tabloid Man, a biography of Ezra Norton, the man who established Truth and The Daily Mirror. She was film critic at The Bulletin magazine prior to joining The Sydney Morning Herald in 1996.