Updated: Feb 25, 2021
When the studio logo for Universal Pictures Happy Death Day 2 U splits into three separate screens before the film starts, I knew that I was in for a treat. The sequel to 2017's surprise hit Happy Death Day once again finds our heroine Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) reliving the same day until she solves a problem.
When the film opens up, we meet Ryan (Phi Vu), who spent the night in his car to give his roommate Carter (Israel Broussard) some alone time with Tree. Ryan decides to go to the school's science lab to meet with his friends Samar (Suraj Sharma) and Dre (Sarah Yakin). The trio is on the verge of a breakthrough with a reactor they've built; however, the school's dean wants to shut them down. Ryan becomes a victim of the Babyface killer, only to find himself in the same day once again.
Puzzled and afraid, Ryan goes back to his room, with Tree realizing that Ryan is now in a time loop. In one of my favorite moments from the sequel, Tree explains to Ryan the events from the first film and decides to help him. Tree soon realizes that Ryan is the one who caused the first time loop. After a series of events (which I won't reveal in my review, as I don't want to spoil it), Tree finds herself back in the time loop from the first film, only this time things are different. She must find a way to return home.
Time travel movies usually fall into two categories downright confusing or good old-fashioned fun, and thankfully Happy Death 2 U falls into the latter category. Returning director Christopher Landon takes over his scripting duties from the first film's writer Scott Lobdell. He takes the franchise in a fresh direction. Instead of quickly repeating the first film's initial premise, Landon's script sets up a narrative that can continue into a crowd-pleasing franchise.
Star in the making Jessica Rothe is once again a joy to watch as Tree. Hopefully, the sequel pushes her career towards bigger-budget fare. With her beautiful smile and all-around likable personality, Rothe shines whether she's delivering a one-liner or fighting off a killer. The rest of the returning cast is also quite good, with the highlight being Rachel Matthews as Danielle.
Outside of Jessica Rothe, Rachel Matthews was my favorite performance in the first film, so I was happy that she has a more prominent role in the sequel. The new characters of Samar (Suraj Sharma) and Dre (Sarah Yakin) are also useful additions to the cast. While they don't have much to do, they blend well with the rest of the cast.
Happy Death Day 2 U may upset some horror fans looking for a traditional slasher film. Still, the direction the franchise is going in works in its favor. Too often, horror sequels repeat the formula of the first film instead of changing up the recipe. Happy Death 2 U is a funny and smart sequel that I highly recommend. Just be sure to stay through the credits for a stinger, and please avoid spoilers.
Final Grade A-