Written/Created by: Matt
Posted on 4.28.03.

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Creature Feature
I watched 'Creature From The Black Lagoon,' and it inspired me to do something really idiotic.

Last September, I reviewed Critters, one of the more popular entries from the world of crapfest creature flicks. Wrongfully disregarded as another Gremlins ripoff, the movie gained steam by keeping the horror elements clean enough to cater to a younger audience. Generally inoffensive and fun for the most part, Critters is clearly one of the genre's best. Dunno if the same can be said for its three sequels, though.

Today, we take a look at the second installment - Critters 2: The Main Course. I knew I'd like it. Give me a little fuzzy demon who bites toes, and I'm happy. The rest of the movie reviewers in the world didn't seem to share my amusement. Largely considered a thoughtless retread, Critters 2 only brought in a fraction of the original's ticket sales, a fact made worse when you remember that the first one didn't really do all that well either. Still, at least it made it to the theaters, which is more than can be said for most of these kinds of surely direct-to-video masterpieces. While I was moderately entertained by the flick, there's two fundamental problems that warrant all the flack. Flick flack. I should copyright that.

First off, they seemed to write the script around whichever actors they could persuade to return from the previous movie. Big mistake. Nobody sees flicks like this for the human element, but when you're focusing most of the story around 'established' characters that nobody gave a shit about the first time around, you're asking for trouble. Continuity is nice and all, but the creatures themselves seem to take a backseat to the 2,000 banal subplots going on within the film's 89 minutes. Just like in the original, Critters 2 suffers from the production team's idea to 'Disneyize' everything. In an effort to fabricate an aura of 'fun for the whole family,' us poor monster fans were ultimately forced to sit through a lot of visual sleeping aids.

Secondly, it's just not sleazy enough. Bad movies are great when they dwell in immoral idiocy, but Critters 2 REALLY wanted to be semi-legitimate. If you're expecting a bunch of creatures to feast on some drunk and naked teens, look elsewhere. There's some gore, but most of it just amounts to the Critters exploding into green gloppy sludge. Despite one instance of tits clearly onscreen, Critters 2 was rated PG-13. I knew that was going to be a problem. Look, it's like this: they got you to watch a movie about fuzzy hand-puppets who steal hamburgers and belch. That's a feat, but if they're not gonna reward it with some scenes featuring the aforementioned puppets eating somebody's kidneys while shouting four-letter words, you're going to feel pretty cheated.

That said, Critters 2 is perfectly watchable if you're into this sort of thing. Here's my review, which is around a thousand words too long, written as I was half-asleep and distracted by a Mad About You rerun where Paul offends Larry David's fat friend. For those curious, I'd recommend skipping this flick and moving on to the final two installments, which are far more stupid and effectively five times more entertaining. Since I've already sat through and encoded it, let's give this one a run anyway...

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Scott Grimes reprises his role as Bradley Brown, the little redheaded kid from the first flick who helped thwart the evil Critters. He's older now, in his awkward teens. His family moved far away from the small town of Grover's Bend after all the chicanery, but since he's such a good boy, Brad's returning to his roots to spend Easter with his grandmother. His grandmother, by the way, is played by the same white-haired hag that Sophia found in the homeless shelter after the Golden Girls lost their 10,000 dollar Lotto ticket in a jacket sold to Michael Jackson. No seriously.

Also returning are 'Ug' and 'Lee,' the heroic interstellar bounty hunters. Charlie, the drunkard from the first film who ended up tagging along into space with 'em, is also back as a full-fledged hunter. The producers felt that the Charlie character really connected with the audience in Critters, and decided to make him the star of the sequel. This was the first of the producers' many poor decisions.

Anyway, Brad's back in town, and the bounty hunters aren't far behind. After finding out that the 'Crites' (Critters) still remained on Earth in egg form, they're once again on the hunt. For those keeping track, the only difference between Critters 2 and the original thus far is that Denise Crosby hasn't cooked bacon yet. Aside from that, it's a verbatim repeat.

I can't remember the name of Brad's new love interest, but she offers very little to the plot aside from a Brad kisses the girl photo op. We learn that Brad's pretty famous in his hometown, but his former neighbors aren't too happy about the 'boy who cried alien' coming back. Seems that the memory of flesh-eating devil monsters still remains fresh in the townfolks' minds, and the last thing they want is a reminder of that time alien monkeys ate all of their cattle. Understandable.

The Crite eggs are here in full force, having been passed from person to person before ultimately ending up as a wheelbarrow full of 'Easter eggs' given out by Brad's grandma to the local kids. Grandma Brown never questions the origin of the rather apparently extraterrestrial eggs, opting to throw caution to the wind for the sake of seeing children smile upon receipt of oversized and misshapen Easter eggs. Brad's grandmother sucks.

Soon enough, the eggs hatch, the Critters start wreaking havoc, and it's déjà vu all over again. To give you an example of what we're dealing with, one of the first deaths is a guy in an Easter Bunny outfit hopping around a field while holding his half-eaten crotch before crashing through a church window. It sounds way cooler than it is, believe me. At this point, the town doesn't know what's causing all the mayhem. Brad keeps quiet, but he knows better.

Panic ensues, and Brad's girlfriend is finally able to get him to admit that the Critters might still be around. See, Brad can recognize those bitemarks anywhere. They try to employ the help of the sheriff from the first film, who declines their request while managing to use the word 'ass' fifty-four times in the span of four sentences.

Yeah, the movie's taking a bit long to get rolling, but rest assured, there's a lot of Critters action to come. They just made everyone bullshit with each other for the first hour to keep the special effects budget on the charts. Sure, it's a little boring to watch Brad unpack his schoolbag for twenty minutes, but anticipation is half the fun, right?

The trio of bounty hunters arrive, but before they can make their move, Lee needs to choose a human form. If you'll recall, the two alien hunters are shapeshifters, and Ug took the form of some fabricated cock rocker in the first film. Apparently, he really liked the look and decided to stick with it. After seeing a Playboy spread, Lee morphs into a nude chick with tits the size of Kansas. We get full-on nipple shots too, so I'm not sure how this thing was classified as 'PG-13.' Have nipples only become taboo in more recent times? Ug, by the way, is played by Terrance Mann - virtually the only character in Critters lore who could be considered a cult hero. This guy even have fansites on Xoom. Oddly, the guy went on to BROADWAY after he was done killing Crites. From Critters to Broadway? Proof that there's hope for all of us.

Everyone meets up, blah blah blah, pleasantries are exchanged, blah blah blah. Brad and Charlie embrace like long lost lovers, which is strange since the extent of their relationship in the first film was limited to Brad waving 'hello' to the guy once or twice. Father Time has sweetened a few memories. He couldn't sweeten Charlie's likeability any, unfortunately. Father Time's .500 batting average rages on.

Good news - we're just about done with the movie's 'setup hour.' If you ever rent this thing, just fast forward to the part where Lee grows tits. The bounty hunters deduce that the Critters must be eating somewhere, and Brad suggests checking out the local fast food joint. Whew - thank god Grover's Bend only has one of those.

Ug and Lee (UGLY GET IT?) enter the restaurant and blow the Critters to pieces. Remember, the Critters only have nominal strength on their own - they're more of a 'strength in numbers' beast. Even though the hunters kill off this batch, there's plenty more to go. As for the monsters themselves? Pretty damn good. A lot of people seem to think that the Critters got less detailed in the sequel, but I couldn't disagree more. The first time around, we only saw the dudes in the black of night. Couldn't tell if they were monsters or piles of shaved pubes. This time, we get to see 'em all illuminated and snarling, dying a thousand creative deaths ranging from gunshot wounds to electrocution, and even the movie's one money scene - Critters in the deep fryer:

See? That's all it takes. Now I'm satisfied with the flick. When you pick up a movie like this, having a great plot is nice, but that's not what you're really looking for. Make no mistake, Critters 2 completely relies on the strength of scenes like this. Watching a poor Crite get his skinned burned off in the potato fryer pulls this thing up by a full letter grade.

The Critters eventually catch on - they know that there's people capable of taking them down in the vicinity, so they all go into their Popple-brand ball forms and roll, roll, roll away. Also of note: Critters are armed with coma-inducing quills which they can shoot over distances of ten feet or more. Ah, so that's it. They're not ripping off Gremlins -- just porcupines! C'mon, porcupines are PUBLIC DOMAIN. Ain't nothin wrong with what they're doing here, but it still begs the question: out of all the mighty citizens of the animal kingdom, why the Hell did they pick porcupines? Just more fuel for the fires of those who theorize that movie plots are chosen by way of random drawings out of top hats. In any event, they're certainly adequate as movie monsters, and do more than hold their own. While they don't share the same humanoid qualities as the Gremlins and those filthy Ghoulies, at least the Critters get witty subtitles whenever they growl.

Lee, who by this point has transformed into three different people including the nerdy kid from Head of the Class, gets taken down and eaten to death by the Crites. Ug conveys his remorse by screaming like an old lady who just saw a mouse in her cupboard. By the way, it's the longest...scream...ever. I don't know for sure what alien species Ug belongs to, but they've certainly got a heavier vocal capacity than us humans. Actually, now I can see how the guy ended up on Broadway. This was some scream.

Oh, and that shot of Lee's pile of bones? That's about as gory as Critters 2 gets, unless you count the monsters themselves exploding into pudding as 'gore.' I'm not much of a gore fan myself, so I didn't mind. I'm mentioning it because there seems to be a good amount of b-movie fans who only enjoy flicks with a ton of red corn syrup and assorted dismemberment. Critters 2 doesn't have much of that, but hey - one of 'em fell into the deep fryer.

Okay, now we're getting into the nitty gritty. The movie has one of the longest ending sequences ever, taking up almost a third of the film's overall running time. That's good news for us, since these kinds of movies usually save the key effects scenes for the finale.

All of the townspeople gather in the church, both to avoid being eaten and to brainstorm about what can be done about these nasty monsters. Ug, still depressed over his partner's death, needs help moving around and refuses to make his head appear sexy again. The stupid sheriff also makes a comeback, picking off six or seven Critters before they can munch on Brad's size 6 girly feet. Yeah, all of this was the audience's chance to go take a piss without fear of missing anything.

For those curious, I've left some of the Critters' small scale feasts out of the review. Don't think they've been nonexistent, though - the boys have done everything from skeletizing cows to ripping one of the local's eyes out of his head. Still, it's not until all of the Critters merge into one solitary force that they become a real issue, and now that they've done that, all of the boring humans are even more worried. This 'worry' is illustrated by a bunch of extras on the set pretending to bite their fingernails.

Sheriff What's-His-Name hatches a plan. Actually, it might of been Brad's plan. Ah who gives a fuck. Since the Critters always eat together, the locals decide to lure them into a trap. Through some miracle, there's a huge warehouse full of hamburgers just down the road. After filling the place with meat and bombs, they use fans to blow the scent in the creatures' direction and hope for the best. Will the Critters take the bait?

Hey, even Critters like to have a good debate every now and again. While on their trek towards Hamburger Heaven, one of the Crites pops up and begins detailing the innate goodness of live meat, causing all of his brothers to change direction towards the onlooking townspeople. Before anything too terrible happens, another Crite pops up and reminds the Critters that cheeseburgers don't have any pesky bones to sift through. That's enough to make the decision unanimous, and they all head off to chow down on some Big Macs...

Sure enough, the warehouse explodes on cue. Everyone starts celebrating like the movie's over or something, altogether missing the fact that the Critters survived the explosion. Now they're all formed into one super-huge mega Critter ball, which rolls out of the warehouse with malcontent. The Critter Ball is the stuff legends are made of - around twenty-five feet tall and complete with 'earthquake' sound effects as it makes its way towards the would-be victims. After a few of the locals get crushed to death, Brad and The Girl Who Likes Brad try to knock the thing off-course by smacking into it with their car. Their plan works, but only temporarily. Once the Critters shake off the cobwebs that come along with being hit by an old station wagon, they redirect themselves towards the crowd and prepare for their biggest meal yet.

And then stupid Charlie flies his stupid ship into the stupid ball of Critters. And that's it, folks. The Critters are dead and gone. If I knew Charlie was going to win the distinction of being the Crite-killing megahero, I would've stopped watching after the deep fryer scene. I'm sorry, but I would've rather have seen Brad's quirky grandmother take the top honors. At least we might've gotten the chance to see an old lady shout 'BITCH' or something. Who gives a shit about Charlie? The guy has a gap between his two front teeth large enough to stage traveling carnivals inside. Heroes are supposed to have better teeth than normal people.

Ug, thinking his pal died in the crash, morphs his face to Charlie's likeness in a tribute. Unfortunately, Charlie didn't die, soon returning with a parachute attached to his ass. That's right, friends - it's the ultimate happy ending. Brad and Generic Sorta Cute Girl even get to seal the deal with a kiss, though it falls a little flat since the kiss Brad gave his grandmother earlier in the flick had more passion. Oh well.

Overall: Well, if you're new to the Critters flicks, don't start with this one. In fact, skip right over it and move on to the final two sequels, which better represent what you're probably looking for. This one had its moments, but they're very here-and-there and certainly not enough to merit the other 75 minutes of 'hey, nothing's happening!' crap we're forced to endure. Don't give this one a second glance unless you're a true patriot - it's just not all that fun to watch. 5 outta 10.



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