Underappreciated movies: Gremlins 2: The New Batch

Back in the early 90s, punters had a choice between Dick Tracy and Gremlins 2 at the box office. They did not choose wisely...

Gremlins 2 = great movie

Looking back, it’s borderline scandalous that Gremlins 2 didn’t ratchet up better numbers at the box office. In the year when the insipid Home Alone ate up $285m at the US box office, when the terrible Kindergarten Cop garnered $91m and fecking Problem Child can make $53m, Gremlins 2 made $41m. It just edged out Rocky V and Joe vs The Volcano for 31st at the US box office in 1990.

Over in Blighty, I can proudly report that I did my bit. I went to see it twice, and would have gone again given the chance. For Gremlins 2 was, simply, a terrific sequel. And it’s one that cut loose: the first was a close hybrid of horror and comedy, but by the mid-way point of the sequel, all bets are off and the laughs come en masse. It’s not a better film that than the original, but it is still a gleeful one, and very, very funny.

Ironically, it achieves this by sidelining for a good part of the film the Gremlin at the heart of it all. Gizmo, bless him, will forever be a movie creature icon, but the first film was very much his story. Here, the focus switches to a bizarre collection of creatures with far more defining characteristics than the still-superb-and-superior original required, and, bluntly, they have a ball with them.

Everyone, no doubt, has their favourites. But the Brain Gremlin always gets me. His assorted monologues are just genius, and his television interview with Grandpa Fred is quite brilliant. Yet don’t forget the Batman riff, the one that insanely giggles (replete with rolling eyes), and Gizmo doing Rambo (“Wambo!”). The bit in the lift where Phoebe Cates’ Kate orders the elevator to sound the alarm, only to be met with a chorus of Gremlins making alarm sounds is also priceless.

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There’s an argument, as Zach Galligan talks about in his interview, that the humans don’t come off as well in the sequel, and only a few are given real space to shine. Galligan and Cates anchor the movie well, of course, and John Glover is superb as Donald Trump-alike Daniel Clamp, whose idealistic view of the world is reflected in the fake happiness of his businesses (“Tonight, on the Clamp Cable Classic Movie Channel, don’t miss Casablanca, now in full colour with a happier ending.”). Look out too for a pre-Voyager Robert Picardo, the always-watchable Dick Miller, while Christopher Lee is a real added bonus in a cameo as Doctor Catheter.

Both Gremlins movies, for this writer, are superb flicks, with immense rewatch value. And truthfully, Gremlins 2 shouldn’t even have to be in a feature such as this. Fortunately, it’s found its audience over the years, but you still can’t help feeling that not enough people give it the credt it deserves.

And when you consider that the cinema going public chose Dick Tracy over this? I don’t mind Dick Tracy, but it’s simply not in the same league as one of the strongest and funniest of blockbuster sequels we’ve seen in the last couple of decades.