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Hulk Hogan's big line in Gremlins 2: "GREMLINS? IN THIS THEATER? NOW?"....
Warner / 106 Minutes / 1990 / Rated PG-13 / Street Date: May 8, 2012
When last we left Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) and Kate Beringer (Phoebe Cates), they had just destroyed a gaggle of gremlins in their sleepy little town of Kingston Falls. Mr. Wing (Keye Luke) then reclaimed Gizmo (voiced by Howie Mandel) and returned to New York, where the cute Mogwai was to be kept safe from careless Westerners. So the story seemed to come to a close, but so successful was this clever and entertaining little sleeper (over $150 million at the box office for an $11 million dollar film ain't bad) that a sequel was inevitable. It would take six years and $50 million (which was barely earned back) to bring Gizmo and his evil counterparts back to the screen in Gremlins 2: The New Batch.
Billy and Kate have moved to New York, lured by the promise of high paying jobs that would allow them to afford to marry. (Why they're not living together to save some cash isn't clear - small town values?) Unfortunately, Kate is only able to find work as a tour guide in the city's most modern and automated building, Clamp Enterprises Headquarters. Coincidentally, that's where Billy - a budding architect - is employed as an illustrator. Coincidentally, Daniel Clamp, President of Clamp Enterprises (John Glover) is after Mr. Wing's shop for some urban redevelopment. Wing resists, but coincidentally, nature is on Clamp's side; the old gentleman dies and his shop is quickly bought and torn down. Gizmo escapes the destruction only to be caught, coincidentally, by scientists employed by Splice 'O Life Designer Genes, run by Doctor Catheter (Christopher Lee). Coincidentally, the lab is located in the Clamp Building. Still with me? This sets up the reunion between Billy and Gizmo, an unfortunate water incident, and the unleashing of more gremlins than would gag Godzilla. Once again, it's left to the resourceful Billy and Kate to save the day.
Director Joe Dante and screenwriter Charlie Haas make the clever choice of parodying the original Gremlins with self-referential humor, gobs more glop, and thinly disguised satires of public figures - Clamp is clearly Trump and he will be attracted by film's end to Billy's obnoxious boss, Marla Bloodstone (Haviland Morris). Remember Kate's touching story of her father's death in Gremlins? Here she tells an equally touching story (that no one takes quite so seriously) of a flasher dressed as Abraham Lincoln on Lincoln's birthday. At least we now understand why she doesn't hesitate to drop-kick gremlin flashers in the two films. There are many amusing movie references that run through Gremlins 2, some overt, some subtle. Watch for Citizen Kane, Batman, Phantom of the Opera, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Rambo, Marathon Man, The Wizard of Oz, and homage to Edward G. Robinson gangster flicks. And once again, Kenneth Tobey (the star of my favorite '50s science fiction film - The Thing from Another World) has a cameo, this time as a theater projectionist.
The special effects and puppetry (courtesy of Rick Baker) improved greatly during the six-year interval between movies, although the stop action bat-gremlin isn't convincing. We do get to see an optically matted Gizmo running, and the sheer number of puppets in some of the last scenes is truly staggering. Gremlins 2 is briskly paced and is laced with both silliness and a dry wit.