Critters 2: the Main Course (1988)

It wasn’t widely publicized at the time, but one of the deciding factors behind the AOL / Time Warner merger of 2000 was AOL’s desire to own New Line Cinema. Why would one of the (at the time) largest internet providers want New Line Cinema? Two words: Scott Grimes. Grimes “starred” in both Critters and Critters 2: the Main Course, and the world is forever in his debt because of it.

How Grimes beat out Tony award winning stage actor Terrence Mann for top billing remains a mystery. I’m guessing it was because Grimes plays the child, a distinction that affords him a sympathy vote that his annoying qualities couldn’t overpower. Terrence Mann instead receiving last billing; though he is afforded the distinctive “and” before his name, letting all the viewers know that he’s the “omega” in the Crites’ universe.

(Such star power squabbling between Grimes and Mann would be laid to rest here, as Grimes would soon be dropped from the Critters’ universe, allowing Mann to carry the next two sequels alone.)

Critters 2 finds Mann returning as one America’s favorite intergalactic, overly destructive bounty hunters: the amazingly monikered Ug. His partner, farmhand turned bounty hunter, Charlie (Don Keith Opper), is clearly a better Crite killer then he was a farmhand. Thus validating Ug’s seemingly rash promotion of the boneheaded Charlie at the end of the first film.

Grimes returns as Bradley Brown, a hero turned pariah in his hometown, as Grover’s Bend isn’t too keen on seeing him again after mutant porcupines slaughtered half its populace on his family’s farm. The Critters, were, of course, ultimately destroyed, but their eggs remained. Incubating for two years before the new horde of Crites are unleashed upon the world.

Interesting, the original film’s marvelously over the top scene of the bounty hunters destroying a church might have a deeper meaning. As its sequel is set during Easter, a detail easily explained away as a plot device (the Crites do start out as eggs here) if one overlooks the church’s wanton destruction. Once again, though, the religious mockery serves little to no point besides a few cheap laughs.

Okay, seeing the Easter Bunny get chewed apart by Critters isn’t funny, but their pounding its crotch in the prior scene certainly is. Still a PG-13 film, Critters 2 skews more heavily towards comedy this time; with most human deaths occurring off camera, while the Crites’ deaths are comically situational.

A Critter getting its hairline blown off by a shotgun blast, then turning and commenting on its new ‘do in the mirror. The aforementioned Easter Bunny slaughter scene. It’s as if producer Robert Shaye was conceding that all the criticism about Critters being a Gremlins knock-off was partially true. Especially considering how Gremlins’ famous kitchen scene was taken wholesale and transplanted into a restaurant.

It is difficult to be critical of such thievery when Critters 2 also adds nudity into the mix. Something Joe Dante left out of his horror comedies.

Director Mick Garris shoehorning the T&A in via the nameless bounty hunter, this time known as “Lee,” who forgoes its prior dead cop disguise for one of a Playmate (Roxanne Kernohan). Kernohan, in bounty hunter uniform, looking like an extra out of Deathstalker.

All the boobs in the world couldn’t save this film though. It lacks the fear that pervaded the first film. In Critters, it was a family of famers against a horde of alien porcupines. In Critters 2, Bradley has already fought off the Critters once, and he has the added support of the bounty hunters throughout the film; not just playing clean-up at the end.

So even when there’s an attempted swerve, such as Lee meeting her untimely end, you’re still not scared for the principal characters.

When the Crites come together to form a giant alien boulder, it’s just silly, not scary. Bringing to mind Weird Al’s playful jab at Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark in UHF. Which is certainly not the note you want to evoke during what is supposed to be your film’s big finale.

Which brings to mind how the Critters could make such a boulder. Remember, Ug and “Jeff” killed off the Critter population well enough in the first one to get a cursory “Mission Accomplished” from their boss. So good, in fact, that it takes two years for the Crite population to reach a level large enough to elicit attention.

Yet when we’re reintroduced to the Critters, they’re still in egg form. Two Easter baskets worth of eggs to be exact. So how the Crites could gather so many to combine into a boulder is a mystery.

Sure, you say, after the eggs hatched, they started feeding, then loving. Even if this was to have happened, it wouldn’t work. Crites were born of egg, so it stands that they’d also lay more eggs to reproduce. And their eggs’ gestation period would have to be longer than two years, as that’s how long the eggs sat before being artificially hatched. (“Artificially” because without the church lady’s space heater, they’d still be gestating in some random Grover’s Bend basement.)

One also assumes the Crites are autogamous given the speed of their repopulation. Imagine being the first Earth-born Critter male, stuck to do nothing but fertilize eggs all day. No hunting, no eating Easter Bunnies, just sex in the name of procreation. A nightmare ripped straight from the S.C.U.M. Manifesto that sadly was not brought to life in Critters 3…

—Need to Know More About the Crite Invasion?—

Critters

Critters 3

Critters 4

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