Monday Movie: Gremlins 2: The New Batch, by David Bax
Every Monday, we’ll recommend a movie–it could be a classic, an overlooked recent treasure, an unfairly maligned personal favorite or whatever the hell we feel like–and we’ll tell you where to find it online.
Joe Dante didn’t get to actually make a full-on Looney Tunes movie until 2003’s Looney Tunes: Back in Action, more than a dozen years after making Gremlins 2: The New Batch. But more than just the roots of Dante’s passion for Bugs, Daffy and the gang are on display in this earlier effort. For starters, Bugs and Daffy themselves show up in a brief, animated introduction scene. That’s just one of many elements that make Gremlins 2, despite its stricter MPAA rating, a more lighthearted affair than its predecessor. Yet this isn’t one of those situations where the edges are sanded off a franchise to make it digestible to a larger audience (like when they made a PG-13 Die Hard movie). On the contrary, the movie’s lightness comes from its pure, anarchic refusal to be anything other than what it wants to be. In a way, it’s all edges.
The reason for this boundlessly delightful treat of a movie is that, after years of trying and failing to get a sequel to the hugely successful Gremlins made, Warner Bros. finally, desperately gave Dante complete freedom to make the movie any way he wanted. That’s why, instead of the sinister horror comedy of the original, we get a gonzo love letter to all of Dante’s favorite things. There’s Looney Tunes, of course, but you could spend all day checking off his other influences, too, from Michael Curtiz to Marathon Man to Mad Magazine and beyond, all accompanied by astoundingly weird creatures created by the great Rick Baker.
Dante has made movies with messages before, especially his many anti-war films, including Matinee, Small Soldiers and “Homecoming,” but Gremlins 2 is pure id. The whole point is that there is no point. Maybe here and there, we flit onto a coherent statement, like when the movie has a character openly mock the nonsensical rules of taking care of mogwai. Two seconds later, though, before he can even finish laughing, that character is slain by a gremlin, once again reminding us that none of this matters. It’s tempting, especially in the present day, to look for something of substance in John Glover’s real estate baron Daniel Clamp, a clear stand-in for Donald Trump (the character is also based on Ted Turner, not just Trump, which you can tell because he’s competent and successful). But, wonderfully, there’s nothing there either. He’s just another lunatic in Dante’s menagerie of maniacs.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch is available to rent on Amazon.