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Happy Death Day 2U

A college student fights killers, science and time loops in this fun sequel

© Universal Pictures / Collegian Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) finds herself in a time loop where she is once again the target of a masked killer.
     Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) escaped from a time loop of death and resurrection, her lives and deaths controlled by a killer in a baby mask. Her slow evolution to goodness eventually ended her repeating day. 
       Or so she thought.
      Tree believed her Groundhog Day-like predicament was the universe’s plan to teach her to heal after her mother’s death. But no, she was the unlucky victim of a science experiment. Ryan Phan (Phi Vu) was building a machine called Sisyphus. Supposed to slow time, it instead created time loops. When Tree and Ryan discover the cause of her slasher-movie nightmare, the device fires again, knocking Tree into another dimension. 
      In the new dimension, Tree rediscovers many of her old problems. She’s still living the day over and over again. There’s still a killer seeking her violent demise. There are some differences, however. There’s a new killer. Her mother is alive and well. And her boyfriend is now dating her sorority rival.
      Whether Tree stays in this dimension or returns to her own, the fatal time loop continues. 
      Happy Death Day hit the theaters last year as a delightful surprise. A comic riff on the slasher genre, it combined great performances with an entertaining premise. Instead of repeating that formula, returning writer/director Christopher Landon made a smart move in the sequel, parodying a new genre. Elements of the slasher movie remain, but the sci-fi genre is not in the bullseye. The genre shifts work, and the result is a movie that’s more Real Genius than Friday the 13th.
       Landon also avoids retreading old territory. You’ll find no recap of Happy Death Day. Alas, newcomers are penalized for what they don’t know. Fans, on the other hand, get a new story, with all the elements needed for a fun spoof: A group of nerds, an overly complicated paradox, a MacGuffin device and a protagonist who is game for anything. 
      The real reason the film works so well, however, is star Rothe. Gifted with excellent comic timing and willing to throw herself into every scene, she sells the movie brilliantly. She dies dozens of ways throughout the film, each time embracing her immortality with aplomb. But to stay alive, she’ll try all sorts of crazy things — like skydiving in a bikini, without a parachute.
      If you enjoyed the first Happy Death Day, this clever sequel should be a treat to brighten up the dreary February film landscape. If you’ve never seen the first film, this one may be an indecipherable mess of in-jokes and silly deaths. 
Good Sci-Fi/Horror • PG-13 • 100 mins. 
~~~ New this Week ~~~
      Stranded in the Arctic since his plane went down, Overgård (Mads Mikkelsen) has eked out his survival while praying for rescue. But when a team finally arrives, more disaster strikes.
       Can Overgård risk trying to survive with a wounded companion? Or should he make the dangerous trek inland for help?
       Survival in the Arctic is not a new cinematic dilemma. Done well, it makes for powerful stories. Mikkelsen has the gravitas to carry a survival story, and first-time filmmaker Joe Penna offered a take original enough to get Arctic a premier slot at the Cannes Film Festival. If you’re a fan of daring survival tales and polar bear attacks, this should be well worth the ticket. 
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 98 mins.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
       Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) inherits leadership of Berk after the death of his father. His dragon Toothless has become a clan head. Trouble begins when a beautiful Light Fury attracts Toothless. 
      When a dragon hunter comes to town, Hiccup tries to focus his distracted dragon on the problem at hand. To overcome this threat to dragondom, Hiccup and his band of dragon riders venture to the Hidden World, a world of dragons whispered about in legends. 
      The How to Train Your Dragon franchise delivers lovely storytelling and emotional depth. These children’s films entertain all ages. If you’re a fan of the series, this should be a sure bet. If you’ve never seen a Dragon film, look up the old ones and discover the wonderful world of Berk. 
Prospects: Bright • PG • 110 mins.