Saturday, January 23, 2016
I finally saw: Gremlins 2: The New Batch
I was pretty good about getting to sequels of popular movies back in the 1980s and 1990s. That is, unless they were not all that popular with me.
The original Gremlins kind of fits that latter description. I've seen it more than once and everything, but its tone has never sat comfortably with me. It's too scary for a movie aimed at children, and it's too childish for a movie aimed at adults. I don't know that it scared me per se, but even back when I was 10 or 11 I realized there was definitely something off about it.
As the summer of 1990 was the one between my junior and senior year in high school, I probably considered myself even less prone to the juvenile but violent antics of Gremlins 2: The New Batch -- especially after I saw its trailer, which showed that the series had cut any tenuous tethers it had to the realm of realism.
And I might have gone to my grave without ever prioritizing a viewing were it not for this Key & Peele sketch, which was shared in one of my Facebook groups back in September:
Quite simply, how can you see something like that and not immediately throw in the movie?
It wasn't immediate, but after another inciting incident (to use a screenwriting term) I knew the time had come. My son came across it at the library the other day, filed in the kids section (!!!). He was drawn in not by the cute Mogwai peeking out of the desk drawer, but the reptilian arm of the cigar-smoking gremlin in the office chair. His imagination started to run wild about what that unseen monstrosity might look like.
I told him it was too old for him, too scary for him.
And then snuck it into the stack of videos we were borrowing so I could watch it myself.
That viewing transpired last night after I returned from the Australian Open, way too late at night to start a movie. I would have gotten started around 11 except that my wife was still finishing off the last 20 minutes of the movie she was watching. So I didn't actually get started until around 11:30. But in a way, that seemed like the perfect time of night for what I hoped would be a slice of glorious outrageousness.
It was as absurd as the Key & Peele skit suggested it would be -- but still not all that satisfying.
Oh, it's clear the makers of the movie were in on the joke. They basically decided they were just going to blow it all up and go for something that would make people laugh at how idiotic it all is. Though there's at least one gruesome death I can think of that resembles the ways the gremlins are massacred in the kitchen in the first movie -- one gremlin meets the business end of a shredder -- the attempt to genuinely scare anyone is gone from this movie. It's a full-on comedy.
So in a way it's probably slightly more appropriate for kids than the first movie. But being so much dumber, it's something I'm less likely to show mine.
I wanted this movie to make me laugh at the brazenness of these creative choices, and get on the same page of just viewing this as a full-on farce. Instead I really just felt myself shaking my head. I don't necessarily think the K & P sketch ruined the element of outrageous surprise, because the stuff they talk about was the kind of stuff that turned me off to this movie 25 years ago. If it was spoiled, it was spoiled ages ago. I think it's just that sometimes, things that are bad are not so bad they're good.
Still, the closing shot of the actor Robert Picardo, who plays the chief of security of the building the gremlins infest, reluctantly finally accepting the advances of a female gremlin approaching him in a wedding dress with the wedding march playing in the background? That put a bit of a smile on my face. The type of smile the movie meant for me to have all along.
In its very last scene, I sort of succumbed to Gremlins 2.