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Joe Dante
Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, John Glover, Robert Prosky
Charles S. Haas

Here they grow again.
Rated PG-13.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround
French Dolby Surround
Spanish Dolby Surround
English, French, Spanish

Runtime: 107 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 8/20/2002

• Audio Commentary With Director Joe Dante, Producer Michael Finnell, Actor Zach Galligan and Writer Charlie Haas
• Additional Scenes
• Gag Reel
• Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
• Cast and Crew
• “The Gremlins Files”
• Trailer
• Still Gallery

Score soundtrack

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Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

When I first saw 1990’s Gremlins 2: The New Batch during its theatrical run, it struck me as uninspired. For most folks, the most memorable parts of the original Gremlins revolved around the wacky antics of the title creatures. They raised havoc in so many wild and inventive ways that they stole the show.

To my eyes, it seemed that the filmmakers decided to give the people what they want. Batch largely disposed of plot and essentially packed in as many gremlins related sight gags as possible within its 106 minute running time. I felt this was cynical and lazy; rather than bother with character development and a true storyline, they took the apparently easy way out and just poured on the goofiness.

Upon further screenings, however, I started to realize that I was wrong. The first film dealt with all the necessary exposition, so the second became free to simply go nuts. After all, the best parts of Gremlins featured the title creatures on the rampage, so why not accentuate those moments for the sequel? That’s what they did, and Gremlins 2 presents this material in a consistently lively and inventive manner.

Admittedly, some plot appears. Billy (Zach Galligan) and Kate (Phoebe Cates) became sweethearts by the end of the first film, and for the sequel, we find them as a full-fledged couple. They’ve moved from quiet Kingston Falls to Manhattan, where they share an apartment and both work at Clamp Centre, a mega-building in midtown. Billy has a job as a designer, while Kate functions as a tour guide.

All’s reasonably well, but that changes after cuddly Gizmo (voiced by Howie Mandel) loses his home. His caretaker Mr. Wing (Keye Luke) dies, and the Clamp corporation demolishes his residence. This sends Giz into the mean streets of New York, where some genetic researchers capture him. By an amazing coincidence, they work in the Clamp Centre, and that’s where they take Gizmo. Eventually he escapes and manages to run into Billy.

Due to some shenanigans, Gizmo gets wet, and fans of the first film know where this will lead. Giz reproduces, and just like in the original flick, his “offspring” aren’t as cheerful and gentle as he. They’re out to cause trouble, and those problems ensue pretty rapidly, especially after they metamorphose into gremlins.

Gremlins 2 expands its character base more substantially than the first, as a number of other participants get involved with the fight against the critters. In addition to Billy and Kate, these include horror movie host Grandpa Fred (Robert Prosky), building security chief Forster (Robert Picardo), and big boss Daniel Clamp himself (John Glover).

The gremlins themselves show greater breadth as well. In the first film, most of them seemed fairly static; Stripe was the leader, but otherwise most of them appeared pretty similar. The new batch includes a variety of personalities, and the genetic research lab creates a mix of mutated gremlins. Most prominent is the “brain” gremlin, the first one of the breed to actually speak (voiced by Tony Randall).

Gremlins 2 seems both more complicated and less complicated than the original. It includes more prominent characters and actually presents a more convoluted set-up; it sure did take me a while to explain that non-existent plot, didn’t it? However, the original film followed a more concrete structure and tried harder to develop the human characters as real people. Gremlins 2 totally tosses all of that out of the window in favor of cartoony situations and mayhem.

More power to it! Gremlins 2 makes no attempts to live within the real world, and the film prospers due to that attitude. It’s a genuinely anarchic affair in which anything can - and will - happen. Director Joe Dante apparently had much more creative control over the sequel, and he just went wild. While this means parts of the film seem self-indulgent, Dante’s instincts succeed most of the time. The flick offers a lot of vividly creative moments and packs in tons of great gags into its running time.

Unlike the first film, this time some of the humans actually manage to make an impact. Glover is a delight as Clamp. A combination of Donald Trump and Ted Turner, most actors would have played Clamp as a nasty villain, but Glover gives the role an innocent and child-like turn that makes him seem surprisingly endearing. He plays the mogul as a five-year-old, and it’s an unexpected twist that works well.

Unfortunately, Galligan seems as bland as ever. At least Cates gets some good comic material, and she does nicely with it. She looks cuter than ever, too, and makes more of an impact here than in the first flick.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch suffers from a lot of detractors who see it as nothing more than a lame rehash of the first film. While it indeed does rehash much of the original’s themes and action, it definitely isn’t lame. Gremlins 2 takes off on a flight of fancy that make it an exceedingly inventive and creative piece of work. The film seems even more lively and entertaining than the first movie, and that’s no small feat.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B+ / Bonus B

Gremlins 2: The New Batch appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not quite up to the top standards, the film looked quite good across the board.

Sharpness seemed solid. I noticed very few instances of softness, as the movie remained nicely crisp and distinct most of the time. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I noticed no signs of edge enhancement. As for print flaws, I noticed some light grain and times and a few examples of speckles and grit. However, the movie generally remained clean and fresh.

Other than a little heavy red lighting, colors remained fine. The movie featured a fairly vivid and lively palette, and the DVD replicated the tones with nice fidelity and accuracy. Colors usually appeared bright and vibrant. Black levels also seemed deep and rich, while shadow detail was clear and appropriately dense. In the end, Gremlins 2 presented a very positive visual experience.

I also liked the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Gremlins 2. The soundfield presented a lively and engaging environment that worked well for this sort of cartoony flick. The forward spectrum demonstrated nice stereo imaging for the music, while effects came across as accurately placed and well integrated. The rear speakers added very positive reinforcement, especially as the action intensified. Gremlins-involved sequences seemed active and the film offered a solid sense of atmosphere. The forward channels dominated, but the surrounds added a lot to the experience.

Audio quality appeared a little bit dated but held up well. Speech seemed natural and crisp, and dialogue showed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. The score came across as nicely robust and vibrant and seemed to reproduce the music distinctively. Effects appeared accurate and clear, without any significant distortion. Bass response presented some nice boom to the louder elements and generally appeared reasonably rich and deep. Gremlins 2 didn’t hold up to more recent soundtracks, but it still offered a fairly solid piece of work.

On this special edition release of Gremlins 2, we find a decent collection of supplements. First up we get an audio commentary with director Joe Dante, producer Michael Finnell, actor Zach Galligan, and writer Charlie Haas. All four men were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track. As with the other three Dante commentaries I’ve recently screened, the director dominated the proceedings. However, this one seemed less lively and compelling compared to the others. The participants did provide a reasonable amount of information, as they covered a number of topics related to the production and the genesis of the sequel; Dante got quite a lot of freedom for the creation of this piece.

Empty spaces always caused some problems with the other Dante tracks, and they seemed more prevalent than usual here. Perhaps the director felt worn out by the time he got to Gremlins 2. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed the commentary and thought it offered enough good information to merit a listen. It simply wasn’t as strong as the others, and it suffered from more weak spots than usual.

Next we find a nice collection of Additional Scenes. The DVD packs a slew of them. We find a whopping 29 bits of film here, all presented anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Surround 2.0 audio. The clips last between 10 seconds and two minutes, 19 seconds for a total of 21 minutes and 38 seconds of footage.

The program includes a lot of interesting material. It starts with an alternate animated Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck opening and also contains a lot more scenes with Robert Picardo. Some funny gags - like one that refers to a musical about Stalin - pop up, and I also like the bit in which Grandpa Fred first meets the gremlins. Other than the absurdly long gremlin death scene, this area offers solid snippets. I can’t say most - or many - of them belonged in the film, but they’re very entertaining to see.

The additional scenes can be viewed with or without commentary from the same crew who appeared in the main track. Not surprisingly, Dante dominates, and he lets us know why the material failed to make the final cut. We also get some fun stories along the way and hear some nice information.

In The Gremlins Files, you’ll find some interactive pictures that include short factoids about Gremlins 2. These always include clips from the film. Frankly, there’s not much information here, as the material seems aimed at younger viewers who missed some of the film’s gags. It’s short and painless, though.

Behind the Screams provides a short featurette. Formally titled “The Making of Gremlins 2: The New Batch”, this five minute and 45 second piece posits the notion that the gremlins control the movie set. We see contrived behind the scenes shots and hear from director Joe Dante, producer Mike Finnell, and actors Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, John Glover, Dick Miller, Christopher Lee, Robert Prosky, Robert Picardo, Gizmo, and Haviland Morris as they discuss the atmosphere on the set. It’s a cute concept but it goes nowhere and offers virtually no information about the production; essentially it’s just a long teaser for the movie.

Much of the Gag Reel consists of the usual goofed lines and laughing. However, the five-minute and 55-second clip includes some more interesting material. Most compelling is the on-going saga that involves a gremlin who tries to coax a terrified monkey out of his cage.

Within the Cast and Crew area, we just get a list of participants; no biographies or filmographies appear. The film’s theatrical trailer appears presented anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Surround 2.0 audio.

Lastly, we discover a great Easter egg. Go to the “Special Features” screen and click to the right from the “theatrical trailer”. This will highlight a gremlin claw, so hit “enter” and you’ll be able to see the alternate version of the scene in which the gremlins take over a movie theater. For the videotape release of the movie, they created a segment that seemed more appropriate for that medium.

Though many seem to disagree, I still think that Gremlins 2: The New Batch is a winner. The movie offers a witty and worthy sequel to the original and manages to be even more fun than that flick. The DVD provides very solid picture and sound along with a pretty nice roster of extras. Gremlins 2 offers a fun and lively piece of work and the DVD comes with a high recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.125 Stars Number of Votes: 56
6 3:
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