Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 4, 2021


an evil gremlin on the loose!
GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH (1990). Director: Joe Dante. 

Billy (Zach Galligan) and Kate (Phoebe Cates) from Gremlins are engaged and living in New York City. Both of them work in real estate developer Daniel Clamp's (John Glover) Trade Centre, which is a fully-automated "smart building." Billy discovers that little Gizmo from the first film has been put in a genetics lab in the building after the death of his Chinese owner, Wing (Keye Luke). Billy frees Gizmo from the lab, but the cute little fellow gets wet and before you know it the Trade Centre is over-run with ferocious if fun-loving evil gremlins! Billy comes up with a brilliant if risky plan to get rid of them. 

Galligan, Cates and Glover with Gizmo in a box
Like its predecessor, Gremlins 2:The New Batch is a pretty silly movie, but it's hard to dislike because of its constant, generally amusing, references to films and popular culture. Galligan, Cates and Glover are perfectly amiable and adept performers, but they are lost in a virtual sea of weird-looking puppets and aging, lovable character actors. One gremlin drinks a special "brain formula" and turns into an erudite pseudo-British type voiced in great style by Tony Randall. We have a hilarious turn or two by the wonderful Kathleen Freeman, who plays a cooking hostess who loves her cooking sherry and finds a slimy-looking gremlin in her stew. I have no idea why Al Lewis didn't play the horror movie host because the character in this is obviously modeled on "Ole Grandpa" from The Munsters, but Robert Prosky does a good enough job impersonating him. There are also some fun supporting turns from Dick Miller and Jackie Joseph, and a funny bit from Kenneth Tobey. 

Gizmo does a dance for the twins and Lee
Three other performers deserve a special mention: Christopher Lee gets right into the manic spirit of the piece in his portrayal of the head of the genetics lab; Robert Picardo offers a snappy portrait of the no-nonsense heartless corporate assistant type who ignites the passion of the one female (?) gremlin in the bunch; and Haviland Morris is utter perfection as Billy's also-lustful boss who has her eyes on him as well as on the prize. Walking into a web spun by a giant spider-gremlin she says "This is new." Gremlins 2 also features a charming scene when Gizmo comes out of his cage to boogie to some rock music and twin assistants dance along with him as Lee looks on with disapproval. Then there's the very clever bit when the Gremlins invade a projection room and set fire to a print of -- you guessed it -- Gremlins 2!

Two other items I must mention. I enjoyed the stop-motion work in the film, which includes a flying bat-gremlin that attacks Dick Miller and turns into a gargoyle -- this was done by the Doug Beswick studios. And then there are the guest appearances by Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, especially the latter. Watch the closing credits to watch lovable Daffy's reaction to how damn long the credits to movies are these days!

Verdict: One could easily denounce this as stupid and note that the pacing is often off, but the darn thing can be inventive and amusing in equal measure. ***.


angelman66 said...

Has been a long long time since I saw the original Gremlins, and can’t remember whether I ever saw the sequel. Galligan was a charming young actor, whatever became of him? I know Phoebe Cates married Kevin Kline and left acting to raise their family, but I always liked her too.
- Chris

William said...

Yes, she appeared in the "Lace" mini-series -- "which one of you bitches is my mother?" was her infamous line -- and did retire as you say. Galligan is still working today, appearing frequently in low-budget horror thrillers, and has had many credits since this. He looks quite handsome in a beard.