With mixed reviews and a domestic gross just north of 50 million dollars, Final Destination was an unlikely candidate to spawn a sequel, despite its slick (and wickedly morbid) execution of a smart concept. But Final Destination 2 justifies all risks taken to give it a theatrical release, as a mostly new cast and crew reproduce the original formula in a manner that may actually be more self-assured and satisfying. It's certainly funnier, though most of the laughter comes in the form of head-shaking howls at the gruesome and gory abruptness of the deaths. J. Mackye Gruber's script understands how to set up these punchlines through seat-squirming red herrings -- the audience can't bear to watch a dentist aim his hypodermic needle at an impending victim's gums -- so even when viewers telegraph the twists that are meant to defy their expectations, it's still cathartic. The adroit staging of these scenes, veritable montages of fatal coincidence, makes it easier to forgive director David R. Ellis for overusing them to the point of redundancy. The film even constructs a somewhat intelligible plan to flout Death's design that links to the first film, though viewers should be prepared to make concessions in the logic department. Final Destination 2 reiterates the best strength of its surprisingly fertile franchise: a liberating format that doesn't rely on serial killers pouncing from the shadows, instead indulging in a genuinely inventive and comic view of predestined doom.