Critters 2 DVD review

Not every movie has to be original. There's nothing wrong with taking a standard formula and having fun with it. The sequel to the surprisingly successful "Critters" is one of those movies. Who says hand puppets can't star in a great movie?

Brad Brown (Scott Grimes) returns to Grovers Bend two years after the "incident" to visit his grandmother (Herta Ware). As if in sequence upon his arrival, the Crites break free from their eggs (somehow they got missed at the end of the original). Three bounty hunters, now joined by Charlie (Don Opper), head to Earth to stop the invasion. The Easter holiday for the small town becomes a war zone between intergalactic aliens and the human race.

"Critters 2" does everything right that first film did wrong. The pace is faster, the little aliens get more screen time, and the body count is where it should be: high. No, the story really isn't important. That seems to be the point many other critics miss about a movie like this. Creature fans could care less about a story. Everyone in the audience is there to see the monster(s).

Here those uh, critters, are simple hand puppets. There's nothing particularly spectacular about the effects nor are they very realistic, but these little guys are funny. They never walk or move around much unless they roll into their little ball form. As it goes for a movie like this, the monsters generally die in a humorous manner (the tire crush is great) leaving behind a nice puddle of green goo.

Though it tries to be a continuation of the original, there are a few lapses that hurt the overall product. One of the rules, the fact that the monsters grow bigger the more they eat, isn't even mentioned and of course they never do get any larger. Their feast is a large one too so the potential was definitely available. While not the entire cast returns, most of them are written off quickly. The biggest loss is M. Emmet Walsh as the sheriff and his replacement, Barry Corbin, has none of the actor's style.

It's not enough to knock this sequel down enough however. There is a great false ending and this time around, and light actually fills the set. The brief and sometimes difficult glimpses of the title monstrosities are gone and the movie is better for it. This is simply one of the rare ones to actually eclipse the original. (**** out of *****)

Like every film in this series on DVD, viewers can watch either widescreen (1.85:1) or pan & scan on the same side of the disc. Mostly because this sequel features extensive light, this one looks a lot better than the first disc. It's a soft transfer, but the gorgeous color in addition to no compression problems make this one a winner. Yes, some light grain is noticeable, but it's rarely bad enough to become a problem. When night does fall, things remains the same, only now the solid black levels keep everything together. The print used is flawless too with barely any damage. (****)

The best improvement this disc contains over the first DVD is the audio. Scratchy dialogue is not a problem here. It's all very clean with no distortion. Bass is strong (but not that powerful) in the 5.1 mix, especially towards the end when things start going up in flames. Ambient effects like bird chirps fill the sound field and there are a few minor moments where the rear speakers find work, but it's not spectacular. The best work remains in the stereo channels where positional audio really shows what it can do. (****)

I hope you enjoy trailers because they are the only included feature. You'll see one for each film in the series. The DVD-ROM extras only link the viewer to websites that no longer exist. (*)

If little alien monsters are your thing, they don't come much better than this. The film made enough at the box office to warrant a third film in the series which then set up the series for the final entry. Mick Garris, who directed this and the short-lived "Nightmare on Elm Street" TV series has only stepped behind the camera a few times since.

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