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Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021)::rating::3::rating::3

Yes, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is dumber than a box of sheetrock screws. And yes, it’s pretty much the reheated leftovers of the first Escape Room. Yet, for reasons I can’t fully articulate, I found myself entertained by it. Trust me, I’m as frightened as you are. I guess sometimes the heart just wants what it wants.

By the way, not every movie is supposed to be My Dinner with Andre. Not every movie must compel us to discuss the meaning of life over snifters of Cognac and Monte Cristo cigars. Once in a while, we need something like Escape Room: Tournament of Champions to pull us out of reality for a while. Sure, filet mignon is nice, but so is a big ol’ crackling bag of Funyuns.

Anyway…..what the hell was I talking about? Oh yeah–Escape Room 2 (I’m not typing out that whole dipshit title again). Normally, I would warn y’all to beware of spoilers, but this ain’t exactly the first two Godfather flicks. This is a buncha sweaty kids frantically solving puzzles. So, feel free to dive on in:

This sequel kicks off right after the first movie ends. Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller), the only survivors of that hootenanny of death, embark on a mission to expose the mastermind of their lethal escape room. Both they must also wrestle with crippling anxiety: Do they really want to solve this mystery?

Give some credit to the filmmakers: They don’t waste any time with frivolous extras like character development and narrative substance. Nope–we pretty much head straight to the gouging and killing. Zoey and Ben are riding on a subway when…BLAM!!! The damn thing locks down and flies off the rails. And–wouldn’t ya know it–in a twist that could only be concocted by over-caffeinated screenwriters, everyone else on the Red Line is another survivor of these sadistic escape rooms. Now, these strangers must work together to get out alive.

No joke–that’s all you need to navigate this visceral little movie. Like the first film, most of the actors spend their time frantically fumbling over clues and jabbering to themselves, so you honestly don’t even need to know their names. Still, I love you guys, and want to keep you informed, so: Theo (Carlito Olivero) is deaf and has big ol’ biceps. Brianna (Indya Moore) is probably the most freaked-out contestant. Nathan (Thomas Cocquerel), a fallen priest, serves as the annoying daredevil of the group. Finally, Rachel (Holland Roden) might be the second smartest player, after Zoey. Anybody who knows their horror can guess how that’s gonna work out for her.

If that synopsis makes Escape Room 2: Back in the Habit sound thoroughly unremarkable, I won’t argue. Nothing about any of this will make you throw down your crutches and walk. But, the deadly puzzles are well-staged and fun to watch. Even better, director Adam Robitel barely pauses to take a breath, sending the movie across the finish line in a lean 88 minutes. So many modern films get saggy from over-length, it’s refreshing to see something that knows its audience and does just enough to keep them hooked.

Escape Room 2: Back to the Minors moves just fast enough to stay one step ahead of my brain, which usually operates in about third gear. I can now officially say that both Escape Rooms offered a pleasant surprise. Hell, I wouldn’t even mind another one. If you’re looking for harmless, disposable entertainment for Halloween, give this film a look. Otherwise, My Dinner with Andre is just a notch below it.

88 min. R. On Demand.

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