Gremlins 2: The New Batch (PG-13)
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Caution: potential spoilers.
This came out in 1990. It's the sequel to the 1984 movie Gremlins. I probably saw it sometime in the early 90s, but if I did, then I forgot almost everything about it by the time I watched it on DVD in 2020. I definitely think, as much as the first movie was a comedy, this one was much more of a comedy, and all the better for it. And the tone is set from the very start, when the Warner Brothers logo appears, with Bugs Bunny stretched out atop it, and Daffy Duck decides to replace him.
So, Gizmo is living with his original owner, Mr. Wing, in New York's Chinatown. A businessman named Daniel Clamp (John Glover) sends one of his top employees, Forster (Robert Picardo) to try to convince Mr. Wing to sell his shop, as he's the last holdout preventing Clamp from putting up a new building in that area. (Incidentally, I immediately figured "Clamp" was an expy for Donald Trump, which I considered good timing, since the night I watched this just happened to be the night Trump was giving his State of the Union address. I will say that Clamp turns out not to be as much of a bad guy as it seemed at first that he must be. But that still doesn't really mess with the Trump comparison, because Trump himself didn't seem nearly as bad in 1990 as he does in 2020.) Anyway, Forster and his assistant bring in a TV on which they play a videotape of Clamp making his final pitch to Mr. Wing, who still refuses to sell. But it's obvious Mr. Wing is ailing, and after leaving the shop, Forster makes note of that fact, and says they can wait (obviously assuming Wing will be dead soon). And it turns out he's right.
The movie immediately flashes forward six weeks, and a wrecking crew starts tearing down Wing's shop. Gizmo has to make a quick escape (apparently no one even bothered to look through the shop after Wing died). It seemed kind of weird to me that Gizmo was apparently unaffected by the sunlight, though he does run toward a dumpster, which might provide some shade. Unfortunately, he's quickly grabbed by some guy who was, for a reason that will be revealed later, interested in unusual things (and Gizmo certainly qualifies). Meanwhile, Billy Peltzer and Kate Beringer are still a couple, and both work in the main building owned by Clamp, which aside from being his own corporate headquarters, also rents space to various other businesses. While Kate is one of the building's tour guides, Billy works in, I guess, the architectural department. He's currently designing the latest construction project for Clamp (the one that will be built in Chinatown). His supervisor is a woman named Marla Bloodstone, who is very intent on climbing the corporate ladder, by impressing Clamp. And that means making sure people like Billy work harder.
One of the businesses that has space in the Clamp building is a genetics lab called "Splice O' Life," a name which I loved. The (mad) scientist in charge is Dr. Cushing Catheter (Christopher Lee, in an example of truly inspired casting). And one of his employees is the guy who had captured Gizmo. Of course they want to do experiments on him. But in an extraordinary stroke of luck, a delivery guy who brings Catheter a package overhears Gizmo's humming, and later whistles the same tune when he's in Billy's department. Billy recognizes it as Gizmo's song, asks where the guy heard it, and subsequently sneaks into the lab to break Gizmo out. He hides him in a drawer, planning to take him home when he leaves for the day. But Clamp stops by, admires his drawing of the new project, and seems to make a vague personal connection with Billy. This causes Marla to basically force Billy to go out to dinner with her, ostensibly as a business meeting. So, before leaving work, Billy stops to ask Kate to bring Gizmo home. This is something she really doesn't want to do, and who can blame her, after what happened the last time Gizmo entered their lives?
Before Kate can go to Billy's cubicle, Gizmo climbs out of the drawer. Then a janitor (John Astin) starts trying to fix a nearby drinking fountain, which ends up spraying Gizmo, thereby causing some mogwai to sprout from his back. (The main one, whom the movie's credits call "Mohawk" (Frank Welker), is very reminiscent of Stripe, from the first movie.) Of course, they all torment Gizmo, and start running amok throughout the building, causing all sorts of trouble. And it's not long before they eat after midnight, so the next day they emerge from cocoons as gremlins, and start causing even worse trouble. Meanwhile, Billy comes home from his meeting with Marla and discovers that Kate has brought home the wrong mogwai, so he knows there's going to be big trouble. Also, Murray and Sheila Futterman are visiting from their hometown, which further complicates matters.
Billy and Kate return to the Clamp building to find the gremlins and stop them from getting out and causing trouble in the whole city, but it's going to be a hard job. Meanwhile, Clamp isn't allowing any reporters into the building, which has been evacuated. There are stories about the gremlins, of course, but he denies them. However, a friend of Billy's called Grandpa Fred (Robert Prosky), who's dressed as a cheesy vampire and hosts a monster movie show on Clamp's TV network, finds himself with a golden opportunity to pursue his dream of being a news reporter by covering the gremlin story himself, with help from a Japanese tourist named Mr. Katsuji, who has a video camera. Also meanwhile, the gremlins manage to get wet and replicate more gremlins. And eventually they break into the genetics lab and start drinking various serums that mutate them in different ways, most of which I won't spoil. But one of them drinks an intelligence serum. He starts talking in a lockjaw accent (voiced by Tony Randall), and becomes the most important gremlin from that point on. (The credits call him "Brain." And I want to mention that probably the thing I most remember from the first time I saw the movie is him singing "New York, New York" near the end.)
Beyond that, I don't want to reveal any specifics. It's all just a lot of hilariously zany antics, a little bit of actual scariness, several fun cameos, lots of pop culture references and fourth wall-breaking, all of which I thought was awesome. Pretty much the only real downside to the movie, IMO, was the abhorrent admirer bits. (See Pop Culture Detective's Sexual Assault of Men Played for Laughs - Part 2)