The rules are simple: don’t get him wet, don’t feed him after midnight, and whatever you do, keep him away from direct sunlight! Of course, Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) wouldn’t be an All-American boy if he followed all the rules. I mean, what’s the fun in that? So yeah, after getting a little furry creature called Gizmo just in time for Christmas from his traveling salesman dad, teenager Billy promptly breaks the first two rules. This results in the birth of the opposite of cute and cuddly and totally innocent Gizmo — the totally uncute, totally uncuddly, and totally not innocent gremlins!
Gremlins is a wildly original roller-coaster ride of hilarious mischief. One minute your hair will stand on end, the next you’ll hold your sides with laughter at the havoc these supposedly gentle furballs create when the rules surrounding their care and feeding are inadvertently broken one fateful Christmas. Written by Chris Columbus and directed by Joe Dante, Gremlins unleashes special effects that dazzle and enchant and merriment that lingers in the memory. And isn’t that “what superior popular moviemaking is all about” (Richard Corliss, Time).
Back in the day, “Gremlins” was pretty state-of-the-art. Then again, I guess you could say that about pretty much every movie Hollywood makes. They’re always on the cutting edge of special effects, so it’s only natural for them to constantly outdo themselves, resulting in a dated look for the films that came before. Nowadays, “Gremlins” looks like what it is — an ’80s Hollywood movie — but one thing it still hasn’t outgrown is Gizmo. Seriously, that is one cute, mischievous furball! I mean, just look at him! Christmas has never looked cuddlier.
“Gremlins” is a fun movie, with just the right balance of scares and laughs, though it never really scares. It’s a lot like many horror-comedies from the ’80s in that respect — the horror is never really all that, well, horrific. The film features a terrific triumvirate of creative minds behind the camera — Steven Spielberg (who produces), Chris Columbus (who writes), and Joe Dante (who directs) — and the result is enjoyable, if never really too spectacular. 25 years later, the film still makes for fun viewing, as long as you don’t expect the Gremlins to, you know, start knifing Granny in the back and such.
The “Gremlins” 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray sometimes looks a bit too dark for my taste, which is not a good thing since a lot of the film takes place at night. The special edition disc is packed with over 10 minutes of additional scenes (with extra Judge Reinhold!), and an old (re: aging) “making-of” featurette that is about 6 and a half minutes long. You also get two feature-length audio commentaries — a lively one with director Joe Dante and castmembers Zack Galligan, Phoebe Cates (as Billy’s girlfriend, Kate), Dick Miller, and comedian Howie Mandel, who provides the voice of Gizmo. The second track features Dante again, this time with producer Michael Finnell and special effects guy Chris Walas. As you might expect, the second track is a lot more technical and detailed in terms of filmmaking, while the first, with the cast, is much more nostalgic. And finally, you get a couple of photo galleries and trailers, including one for the sequel, “A New Batch”.
“Gremlins 2: The New Batch”
They’re baaaaaaaaack. And so are young lovers Billy and Kate in “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”, which finds the twosome all grown up and on their own, living in New York City where they both have swanky new jobs. Also back is Billy’s little buddy Gizmo, the unwitting cause of all that Christmas mischief from “Gremlins”. Now finding itself in the hands of the same corporation that Billy and Kate work for), Gizmo once again gets exposed to water and begins sprouting those rascally Gremlins. Despite being a whole new breed of Gremlins, they still have the same mischievous personalities.
Billy Peltzer and Kate Beringer move to New York City and meet up with their Mogwai friend, Gizmo, when a series of accidents creates a new generation of diverse gremlins. Billy, Kate, and Gizmo must once again use all their experience to prevent another catastrophe.
Once again directed by Joe Dante, “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” is, well, it’s certainly an odd duck. The film got mixed reviews when it premiered in 1990, six years after the first movie (and it’s easy to understand why so man reviewers didn’t “get” it). Dante throws in some pretty hilarious set-ups (some of it so out of left-field that it probably caught many people by surprise), especially involving the new, mutated Gremlin leader, Brain (Tony Randall). Howie Mandel is also back as the voice of Gizmo, and the sequel puts the entire city of New York at state rather than one small town.
Overall, “The New Batch” is hit and miss, but if you’re in the mood to just go with it, the sequel is actually quite fun. I don’t know if Dante, working off a script by Charles S. Haas, was making things up as he went, but at times it sure felt that way. “The New Batch” just has that random vibe about it that is hard to explain until you see it. Still, it makes for a fun follow-up to 1984’s “Gremlins”, and certainly stays true to the Rule of Movie Sequels — bigger, more expensive, and louder. Is it better? Of course not. The first “Gremlins” is still much, much better, but the sequel has its charms, too.
The “Gremlins 2” Blu-ray looks much better than “Gremlins”, and I had no issues with darkness. If anything, the colors are pretty outstanding for a movie from 1990. Special features include over 20 minutes of deleted/unused scenes, most of it set-up material that the film could (and did) do without. There is also a behind-the-scenes doc, a gag reel (about 6 minutes), and theatrical trailer. Joe Dante once again returns for another round of audio commentaries, this time with star Zach Galligan, writer Charlie Haas, and producer Michael Finnell. It’s a sausage fest, and I kept wondering where Phoebe Cates was. Nevertheless, the boys do a decent job.
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