It’s felt like a rainy day, month, and year; why not cheer ourselves up? Having remorselessly rubbished Jordan Peele’s much ballyhooed Candyman reboot, let’s see Peele and Comedy Central partner Michael-Keegan Key sticking the boot into the Hollywood tropes that they now seem content to admire. I’m quite a fan of Joe Dante’s 1990 follow up to Gremlins, and didn’t immediately see the need for an entire sketch about the creative process behind it, but Gremlins 2 Brainstorm absolutely hits the mark.
In a Hollywood meeting room, Joe Dante (Key) and some writers discuss the possibilities for the sequel, to be set in an urban office block. Dante is immediately suspicious of the input of sequels expert Star Magic Jackson Jr (Peele), but moves forward with the ideas man promising to take a back seat. But Star Magic Jackson Jr soon ends up dominating the meeting, giving each writer the chance to create their own gremlin at ludicrously short notice, and promising to put each one of their creations in the movie. The random answers feel and sound improvised, and yet as the final caption reminds us, every single one of these daft ideas somehow made it to the final movie.
As Graham Greene noted after suffering a Bing Crosby programmer, it takes stamina to be film critic, and sketches like this provide respite by reminding us just how random the creative process is. Star Magic Jackson Jr has no filter, and no quality control; if it’s an idea, as he says, ‘IT’S IN THE MOVIE’ and suggestions like ‘vegetable gremlin’ ‘bat gremlin’ ‘googeley-eyed gremlin’ or ‘electro gremlin’ all fill him with delight. Dante’s suggestion that “I don’t think the gremlin design is broken’ is ignored; ‘This is G2 people, and it’s going to be a par-tay!’
Gremlins 2: The New Batch was an inspired film in itself, much better than the original, but the decision-making process involved is bold enough to deserve parody, and Key and Peele deliver one that nails the madcap feel of the movie. This is a funny, knowing sketch that hits a recognisable truth; films are often far more fun to make or imagine than they are to watch.