Genre: Horror Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 46 min.
Release Date: June 15th, 1990 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Joe Dante Actors: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, John Glover, Robert Prosky, Christopher Lee, Haviland Morris
ack in Mr. Wing’s (Keye Luke) oriental Chinatown shop, uppity New York businessman Daniel Clamp (John Glover), who has plans of building a monstrous development through the area, pushily inquires once again about purchasing the property. Wing is the last holdout. But six weeks later, he passes away, allowing the Clamp Chinatown Center project to get underway. Employed by Clamp’s Premiere Regency Trade Center, artist Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) and tour guide Kate Beringer (Phoebe Cates) hope that by trudging through their bleak office jobs under the scrutiny of coldly tyrannical Mr. Forster (Robert Picardo) and cranky supervisor Marla Bloodstone (Haviland Morris), they’ll eventually save enough money to get married.
Meanwhile, Grandpa Fred (Robert Prosky), the star of a children’s television show recorded at the Manhattan Clamp Cable Network stage, has just been relegated to a timeslot with significantly less viewership. And in a laboratory on the 51st floor called “Slice O Life,” where cloning and genetic research is conducted, the cute little chiroptera-like Mogwai rodent named Gizmo has been captured. When Billy discovers that the merciless Doctor Catheter (Christopher Lee) has caged his old friend, he sneaks into the office and smuggles him out. In short time, Gizmo gets wet, spawning further furballs, who in turn eat after midnight and get doused by sprinklers, causing their skin to bubble and generate exponentially more offspring.
It starts with a Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoon skit, which clearly defines this direct sequel to the popular “Gemlins” as a family-friendly monster movie with comedy and terror alike. But the tone has become noticeably sillier, with obvious slapstick and visual gags frequenting the action. Technology expectedly malfunctions; Gizmo becomes even more of a mischievous adventurer; authority figures are unintelligent, disbelieving, and antagonistic; and grossly slimy, gooey, membranous cocoons merge with the contrastingly cuddly, furry critters. There’s also plenty of pernicious violence, food fights, and startling grotesqueries – such as a gremlin getting sucked into a shredder or a careening elevator landing on a squadron of literally juicy vermin.
The story is essentially a duplication of the original film, with the rules being carefully set, water accidentally landing on Gizmo, and a new batch of misbehaving imps transforming into ruthlessly destructive gargoyles. The puppeteering has evolved slightly, with more expressive designs and a greater range of movements. But the use of inefficient green screen special effects makes the practical components less convincing. Fortunately, the ideas have gotten wilder, with gremlins injecting immunizations to sunlight, mutating into particularly disgusting variations, wielding machineguns, orchestrating musical numbers, or drinking potions that produce frightening hybrids – such as an amusingly aggressive female gremlin.
But the self-referential spoofing makes the whole event somewhat of a joke, especially when an intermission reminds audiences that they’re merely watching a movie – which drastically migrates away from the purely entertaining fantasy elements of the predecessor. It’s no longer a film but an oddly aware promotional medium. While poking fun at itself, it also parodies other popular projects, including “Rambo,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” and “Marathon Man.” And, at the heart of it all, is the pervasive questioning of where the hundreds of gremlins got their miniature outfits.
– Mike Massie