escape room: tournament of champions
Running time: 88 minutes. Rated PG-13 (violence, terror and strong language). In theaters.
The best thing about the “Escape Room” film series is that it gives audience members clear directions in the title about what they should immediately do: Escape. Room.
Get out of that theater and go see “Black Widow” instead. Run for your lives — and sanity!
That’s because it’s the rare horror franchise that satisfies zero criteria of what we want from a freaky movie. The first film was not particularly scary, campy, creative, suspenseful, shocking, satiric or gory. It was corporate Soylent Green that existed solely to cash in on a millennial trend. That 2019 movie was not a tough act to follow, and still somehow the sequel, “Tournament of Champions,” falls even further into the depths of drudgery.
Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller), the only survivors of the deadly Escape Room, are back and hell-bent on revenge. Nobody believes their story about the evil Minos company, which puts unwitting humans in elaborate life-threatening scenarios for the entertainment of the rich. But Zoey won’t rest until she takes them down.
The duo travels to New York, where they believe Minos is secretly headquartered, and end up on a subway train at Canal Street. In the first of many highly predictable moves, the car just so happens to be yet another escape room.
“Minos found us,” says Zoey. “Did you say Minos?” a different passenger responds. “No. Not again!”
Everybody on the train, we learn, is a traumatized previous escape-room participant.
“So that makes this — what? — the tournament of champions?” Zoey surmises. Don’t believe the IMDB page. The dialogue of “Escape Room” had to be written by director Adam Robitel’s 12-year-old nephew.
As these champions are experienced with the dangerous challenges, they solve the clues to advance very fast. Too quickly, if you ask me. Instantaneous problem solving is forgivable in “The Da Vinci Code” because Robert Langdon is a world-renowned genius. These guys work in retail.
The environments are less cool this time around and remain totally unrealistic. There’s a giant underground bank, a beach complete with lighthouse and a re-creation of a New York street corner. There is a big emphasis on the sensations of burning and drowning. They get singed by lasers, melted by acid rain and electrocuted by touching a subway rail. Meanwhile, I got exhausted by a movie.
The ending borrows a page from the TV show “Lost.” Just when you think they’ve finally made it off the island — or out of the escape room — we’re right back to where we started.
Which unfortunately means more “Escape Room” sequels.
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