“Okay you guys, listen up! People paid good money to see this movie! When they go out to a theater they want cold sodas, hot popcorn, and no monsters in the projection booth! Do I have to come up there myself? Do you think the Gremsters can stand up to the Hulkster? Well, if I were you, I’d run the rest of Gremlins 2! Right now! Sorry folks, it won’t happen again,” says Hulk Hogan.
The first Gremlins film I ever saw was actually the second one, not the first. I saw it several times in bits and pieces on cable when I was a kid years ago, but it wasn’t until I bought it on DVD that I got to see it in its entirety. I was always surprised that there was a six-year gap between the films, but I’m glad a sequel was made (Joe Dante did such a wonderful job with the first film). I finally got to see Gremlins on the big screen last year at the IFC Center, but it wasn’t the first Gremlins film I saw on the big screen. I saw Gremlins 2: The New Batch at a midnight screening at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema almost three years ago, and it was a very enjoyable experience to see furry little Gizmo on the big screen for the first time.
1990’s Gremlins 2: The New Batch picks up several years after the events of the first film. Billy and Kate, who are now living in New York City, work at Clamp Enterprises. One day, Billy stumbles upon Gizmo, his former pet Mogwai, at a laboratory in Clamp Enterprises and rescues him. Gizmo gets accidentally wet and a new batch of gremlins is created. They go on the loose and it’s up to Billy, Kate, and Gizmo to stop them before they get out of the building and terrorize the city. Date reunited original cast members Zach Galligan (as Billy), Phoebe Cates (as Kate), Dick Miller (as Murray Futterman), Jackie Joseph (as Sheila Futterman), Keye Luke (as Mr. Wing), and Howie Mandel (as the voice of Gizmo). New cast members include John Glover (as Daniel Clamp), Haviland Morris (as Marla), Robert Prosky (as Grandpa Fred), Robert Picardo (as Forster), Gedde Watanabe (as Mr. Katsuji), Christopher Lee (as Dr. Catheter), Don and Dan Stanton (as Martin and Lewis), Frank Welker (as the voice of Mohawk), Tony Randall (as the voice of Brain Gremlin), and a bunch of cameos (including Bubba Smith, Hulk Hogan, Leonard Maltin, Dick Butkus, etc.).
Galligan and Cates are wonderful together again, Miller brings to light the pain and suffering (courtesy of the gremlins) he’s experienced since the previous film without going over-the-top in his expanded role, and Glover brings such naiveté to a character who shouldn’t be as likeable as he ends up being. Picardo is fun to watch (especially when he’s being sexually harassed by the female gremlin), and seeing Lee in the laboratory was a delight (especially when bats were mentioned). Dante opted for a lighter, more live action cartoonish tone than the first film (the Looney Tunes animation at the beginning of the film helps set the tone). The screenplay by Charlie Haas significantly increases the satirical humor, including meta references (one example being a scene that features film critic Maltin, who appears as himself and tapes a show where he repeats his criticism of the first Gremlins film before being attacked by actual gremlins in the studio). Even the three important rules in taking care of a Mogwai (don’t get them wet, don’t expose them to sunlight, and don’t feed them after midnight) are satirized as several characters try to make sense of them when explained.
James Spencer’s production design was amazing, particularly all the different aspects of the Clamp building (offices, rooms, studios, mall, etc.; it’s truly a world of its own). John Hora’s cinematography reflects the lighter, cartoonish tone of the film, and Kent Beyda’s editing gives the film a good pace. Rick Baker (who almost didn’t work on the film because he wasn’t the original creator of the Mogwai and gremlin creature puppets and effects) did incredible work in bringing the gremlins to life (he diversified so many of them; there was a bat gremlin, a spider gremlin, a female gremlin, and so many weird others). Jerry Goldsmith (who cameos as a yogurt customer) delivers another terrific score that reflects the cartoon-like atmosphere while paying tribute to Looney Tunes composer Carl Stalling. Joe Dante’s Gremlins 2: The New Batch is a worthy follow-up to 1984’s Gremlins that significantly increases the zaniness that occurs, exchanging darkness for even more satire on a much larger canvas. It also served as a good trial run for the live action Looney Tunes film Dante would make more than a decade later (2003’s Looney Tunes: Back In Action).
R.I.P. Christopher Lee (1922-2015) [pictured right]