During Happy Death Day, as Tree (Jessica Rothe) kept dying and starting her day over, I couldn’t get past the total lack of clarity of why this was happening to this particular character. There’s a bit of an emotional journey to be found, but the convoluted plot overshadowed most of it.
But Happy Death Day 2U jumps right in to explaining how Tree found herself in a time loop, reliving September 18, her birthday and the day she gets murdered, numerous times. This second installment begins on September 19, the day after Tree has broken her time loop. But we start on Ryan (Phi Vu) first, Carter’s (Israel Broussard) roommate, who’s only call to action in the first film was to walk in on Tree and Carter at the start of the time loop. Here, he experiences his own time loop — he walks in on Tree and Carter, now officially hooking up, goes to his lab where he’s working on a fancy energy enhancing thing that’s supposed to slow down time (hint, hint), and is then killed by someone else in that baby-faced mascot mask in a darkened laboratory.
This is where Happy Death Day 2U is great at building on its own Groundhog Day mythology to create an endlessly entertaining adventure into parallel time loops and the multiverse theory. Bringing an explanation into the story allows the film a level of self-awareness the first one didn’t have, making this one easier to enjoy. Even though the focus shifts from Ryan back to Tree, there’s still some wonderful emotionally engaging scenes that differ from the first one.
The humor feels more sharp, which includes a ridiculous suicide montage, landing this film firmly in the territory of dark humor. Not that the first film didn’t touch on this level of humor before, but its self-awareness of the genre it’s in gives it more of a leg to stand on. Rothe carries much of this on her shoulders, and fantastic once again. She also proves to be pretty versatile, creating moments of great vulnerability that really tug on the heartstrings. The rest of the cast rounds it out, with everyone pulling more weight than they did the first time around.
As someone who wasn’t a fan of Happy Death Day, my appreciation for meta commentary on genre tropes found 2U to be a perfect example of how a film can twist its own established rules and give their story a bit more depth. It’s a fun time to be had, for sure, and if Scott Lobdell and Christopher Landon can keep messing with and adding more to this time-bending, dimension-hopping universe they’ve created, then I’m all for a third one.