The first installment of director Christopher Landon’s horror riff on Groundhog Day worked its premise to amusing enough effect: grief-damaged young woman Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) gets trapped in a time loop that sees her killed again and again on her birthday, but she manages to use said loop to uncover and eventually thwart her killer. As a bonus, she works on her issues and falls in love in the process. The sequel makes it clear why there was no Groundhog Day 2: The Return of Punxutawney Phil. What is left to be done? Answer: not much, so let’s pad out a consideration of What If Life Had Gone Differently? with forced drama, mild danger, halfhearted gags, undefined characters, underwhelming romance, and a lot — too much, really —of science talk surrounding a time-loop gizmo named after Sisyphus. (Okay, the name is cute.) Probably the most memorable bit — if only because of its willingness to wander into the realm of questionable taste, and so make the audience maybe feel something — is our heroine’s played-for-laughs suicide montage. Rothe mugs and emotes for all she’s worth, which is something, but her effort only highlights the desultory character of everything around her. (2019) — Matthew Lickona
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