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Review: Happy Death Day’s chipper message undermines its spunk

Jessica Rothe stars in Happy Death Day.

Patti Perret/Unive

2.5 out of 4 stars

Title
Happy Death Day
Written by
Scott Lobdell
Directed by
Christopher Landon
Starring
Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard and Ruby Modine
Genre
Horror
Classification
14A
Country
USA
Language
English
Year
2017

Groundhog Day starred Bill Murray as a cynical weatherman reliving a Pennsylvania-in-February day on repeat. That movie, a comedy classic, was fresh and fantastic in 1993.

Since then, it's been done to death – first with 2006's Salvage, and now with Happy Death Day, which breathes life into the seen-it-all-before slasher genre by placing the time-loop premise on a college campus, where a jaded co-ed is forced to die a violent death over and over again on her birthday.

The sassy sorority girl is played by Jessica Rothe, the able La La Land actress whose blonde-hair blue-eyed presence recalls a young Britney Spears – oops, I died again. There's a spunky charm to the Scream-meets-Groundhog Day thing, and the film is well-built. The problem is its chipper message.

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In Groundhog Day, the theme is middle-aged despair. "What would you do," Murray asks, "if you were stuck in one place and everything was exactly the same and nothing that you did mattered?" Whereas Happy Death Day 's meaning is trite and syrupy: "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." Puh-lease. Gag me with a spoon, or, better yet, stick with me a knife.

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