Good Burger 2

Just over 25 years after the debut of the original film, Nickelodeon reignited the nostalgic cult flame with the Paramount+ release of “Good Burger 2.” Dexter (Kenan Thompson) is a failed entrepreneur, and after his latest business venture literally goes up in flames, he returns to Good Burger hoping for a crutch from Ed (Kel Mitchell), who never left the cherished fast-food joint. Now the owner, Ed is subject to hefty offers to buy out Good Burger and franchise it, but the restaurant is his life and all he’s ever known, and his vehement refusals are met with increasingly sinister schemes. 

Between the pushy incentives from businessman Cecil (Lil Rel Howery) on behalf of his mystery boss and Dexter’s own money-grubbing selfishness as he tries to cash out by any means necessary, Ed, trusting of his closest friend, and Good Burger, finds himself between a rock and hard place. When Dexter’s notorious bad business practice finds him signing Cecil’s contract without reading (and convincing Ed to do the same), the hope they gleaned via false promises plummets when they realize they’ve sold Good Burger to MegaCorp. Losing their jobs, the original store, and handing the business to Katt Boswell (Jillian Bell), the sister of the original film’s antagonist, Kurt from Mondo Burger, Dexter and Ed must fight to reclaim Good Burger from the AI and robot-driven capitalist nightmare that MegaCorp promises to transform it into.

“Good Burger 2” is a nostalgia trip at its core. Between callback jokes and visits from old characters, like Connie Muldoon (Lori Beth Denberg), the big-haired, rapid fire customer or Roxanne (Carmen Electra), now Ed’s nanny, the script is riddled with reminders of the first film. Yet even with its reliance on old shticks, the punchlines don’t falter, and “Good Burger 2” pleasantly delivers laughs with familiar gusto. Mitchell reprises his role with outstanding effect, providing ever-impeccable physical comedy. From headstands to food fights and quirky gaits to kinetic facial expressions, Ed doesn’t feel like he’s aged or changed from the first film, and it’s a delightful trip down memory lane and successful foil to the development of Dexter. 

Dexter is self-centered. When he returns to Good Burger down on his luck, it’s been 5 years, 8 months, and 32 days since he last saw Ed. Yet, he arrives with expectations of a job and an eventual ploy to take Ed’s life’s work and get a few bucks for himself. Even with the subplot of their semi-toxic friendship dynamic, Thompson’s comedic chops are never under question. Even as Mitchell’s gallivanting antics are flashier, Thompson’s sarcastic quips and iconic vocal affectations maintain a cutting edge to the film’s otherwise goofy style. The actors feel like they never left. They maintain the chemistry from the first film, and it’s refreshing to see that their believability hasn’t dwindled with age; the youthful foolishness crucial to the film’s comedic core doesn’t feel forced or ingenuine. 

Although the laughs remain trusty, “Good Burger 2” ultimately doesn’t do much to develop the narrative of its predecessor. Dexter and Ed, albeit older in age, feel plucked from the first film and dropped into new circumstances. The discomfort of Dexter’s manipulation of Ed was a bullet point on an abandoned emotional outline within the film, and a missed opportunity to imbue some sense of maturity and development in the film’s otherwise familiar hilarity. It begs the question of the thoughtfulness of reviving the film in the first place.

There is a thematic throughline of AI and technological replacement in the service industry, and the big machine of capitalism that views human workers as less than on account of their need for fair compensation, “bathroom breaks,” and “complaints.” And while all of this is delivered in an on-the-nose rant from Katt, it’s also given risible delivery through all the ways machinery can be hijacked and malfunctioned. It pits mega corporations against small businesses in a shallow-though-recognizable fashion that proves itself to be at least an attempt at a greater message and motivation for the film. 

“Good Burger 2” is a sentimentally slapstick sequel chock full of fun cameos and absurdity, yet it doesn’t divert itself enough from the familiar path. It serves up little more than nostalgia, with some solid laughs but too little that could be called memorable.

On Paramount+ now.

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