First, my little back of obligatory backstory. I was 9 years old when the original GREMLINS was released. Probably smack dab in the middle of the perfect target audience for a fun little horror film full of gleeful gore and maniacal monsters. Due to many factors, a sequel to the mega-hit was not produced for some time afterwards. By the time this was released, I was then 15 and looking for something a little more from my entertainment. The sequel was, then, quickly relegated to a little corner of my memory.
Years have elapsed. I have submersed myself in horror films and still, to this day, have an undying love of the original. I can see, now, all of the fun little horror tidbits that Dante hid in his movie for the more adult viewers, while spicing just enough family fun to keep the whole family interested.
This movie, though, is lacking any of the charm and craft that made the original so good. What Dante and all involved seem to have forgotten is that the gremlins and mogwai became stars, but what made the original so successful was good writing, a good script and a good plot.
This sequel seems hellbent on packing as many different gremlin creations and bad jokes as possible in its' runtime. There is almost no story developed here, at all, and the story that is doesn't make sense half of the time. The plot moves along just enough to propel the viewer from one gag to another, most of which are not funny by child or adult standards, that become a tireless, repetitive bore by the end. Naturally, most of these gags also serve to introduce us to a bevy of new characters, with their own personalities. Yes, it smells a little too much of marketing and the need to create new mogwai/gremlins as if they figured they missed out on something with only having Gizmo and Stripe as recognizable creations in the original. Most of these new creations are even more annoying than the gags.
Even the human characters have become cardboard cutouts this time around. Billy and his girlfriend are barely there, just fodder for another gag, or when the plot is needed to move along to the next step. The corporate heads are interesting ideas that become convoluted and, mostly, generic. Even the great Christopher Lee is wasted here in a role that anyone could have filled, as a minor scientist who serves only to introduce the experiments that will, in turn, produce the gallery of gremlin hybrids.
Many point out the fun easter eggs in this movie and how much this shows Dante's love of 50s sci fi. Yes, it is fun for a drive-in horror junkie like myself to find those hidden gems and appreciate all the little nods to films of past years that Dante worked in, but that doesn't even come close to saving this movie from being a mess.
About halfway through this, my wife and I looked at each other and quickly realized exactly why we had both pushed this to the depths of our subconscious. If you removed the GREMLINS franchise name from this movie, you'd have nothing but a second-rate imitation, which is all this really is in the end.