As a life-long film lover and passionate cinephile, there are three words that strike fear into the depths of my soul – ‘upcoming comedy sequel.’
There are only a handful of things that we know to be certain in this world; that the sun will rise in the east, that Nicholas Cage will continue to make questionable career choices, and that sequels to popular comedy films will almost always be shit.
We’ve witnessed this trend develop over several decades, but these last few months have really hammered home the truth – that you can’t have a comedy sequel successfully maintain the magic of the original movie. You just can’t.
If you’re looking for ironclad proof, look no further than the crushing disappointment that was Zoolander 2. 15 years on from the cult classic,
Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell’s spy spoof sequel failed to sell itself to audiences, crashing and burning at the box office amid some toxic reviews – including my own.
In order to commemorate (or should that be commiserate?) Zoolander 2’s demise, I thought I’d reflect on the disappointing nature of comedy sequels and the reasons behind their tendency to suck.
THEY WAITED TOO LONG – Zoolander 2
This is probably the most prevalent factor shaping shit comedy sequels; nostalgia. In order to capitalise on nostalgia, studios tend to resuscitate semi-decent comedy movies from the days of yore and give them the sequel treatment. As I mentioned, the most recent and perplexing film to undergo this resurrection was Zoolander 2 – and it’s easy to see why it failed.
The original Zoolander opened in 2001, only a few short weeks after the horrifying events of 9/11. At the time it was a pretty hefty box office flop, but steady DVD sales saw the film develop a cult fanbase long after the film had left theatres. It was a film born of the era; the characters, cameos, plot, tone and jokes are very ‘2001’, in the same way that 1997’s Spice World is supremely cringe worthy in hindsight.
Flash-forward to 2016 and Paramount have just learned that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Populated with the same jokes and worn-out catchphrases as the first film, Zoolander 2 is already out-dated and stale upon arrival. It isn’t 2001 anymore, and the same jokes don’t resonate with audiences when they’re delivered with such limp resolve.
Put simply, they waited too long and failed to do enough to make something old feel sufficiently new again.
See also: Anchorman: The Legend Continues, Dumb and Dumber To, Vacation
THEY RUN THE JOKES INTO THE GROUND – Little Fockers
Remember Meet the Parents? Remember how great that movie was? Now think about the sequel, Meet the Fockers. It’s okay, but it’s fair to say that another round of Ben Stiller vs. Robert De Niro wasn’t totally warranted.
Now remember the third film, Little Fockers. I bet you’d forgotten all about it, hadn’t you? That’s because it was a terrible idea that resulted in a terrible finished product. It’s the same old shit that’s been scooped up, reheated and served to audiences on a silver platter to mask the stale stench.
There are only so many times I can witness De Niro and Stiller snarl and scowl at one another before it’s no longer amusing; there are only so many ‘Focker’ puns that I can take before something snaps. Look up ‘beating a dead horse’ in the Macquarie Dictionary and I guarantee you’ll find a screengrab from Little Fockers. Fuck, I hate this film.
See also: The Hangover trilogy, The Big Mommas House series, Austin Powers in Goldmember
THEY WERE NEVER GREAT TO BEGIN WITH – Ride Along 2
Money makes the world go round, and nowhere is this more evident than Hollywood. Even if critics tore it a new one, your movie will be assured a sequel if it raked in enough dough to justify it. Film studios have a penchant for continuing comedy franchises that have no business receiving a sequel in the first place, just so they can earn that little bit extra moolah. If you’re not convinced, look no further than the Ride Along series.
I don’t think anyone would argue that the first Ride Along movie was anywhere near the realm of greatness. The repertoire that Ice Cube and Kevin Hart shared was decent, but other than that it was a formulaic, by-the-numbers comedy populated with half-arsed jokes and cookie-cutter characters.
But guess what? It made over $150 million at the box office from a meager budget of $25 million, and when the cash tills start to ring so too do the phones of studio execs determined to greenlight another film that does everything exactly the same. Cue Ride Along 2, an equally poor excuse for comedy that, all things considered, has no reason for existing other than to add to Kevin Hart’s children’s college funds.
See also: Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Grown Ups 2, The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps
THEY LOSE THAT SPECIAL INGREDIENT – Evan Almighty
Jim Carrey must have a sixth sense for knowing when to bail on a sequel, because he’s avoided more than his fair share over the years. His ability to sidestep shit sequels almost earns a category all of its own; films that suffer by losing an extra special ingredient.
Four years after fronting the wildly popular Bruce Almighty, Carrey (and his co-star Jennifer Aniston) left Universal in the lurch when they decided to depart the upcoming sequel. To combat their exit, Universal recruited Steve Carell, a supporting character from the original movie, and crudely shafted him into the lead role.
In hindsight, it was never going to work. In losing its biggest asset, Universal’s sequel ambitions were doomed from Day 1. Don’t get me wrong, I love Steve Carell; he’s a fantastic actor with immense range. Michael Scott is one of the best characters in television history, and his recent foray into drama (Foxcatcher, The Big Short) has been an inspired career move. But his everyman shtick was no replacement for the rubber-faced antics of Carrey, and his appearance in Evan Almighty was woefully ill conceived. Without the ingredient that made its precursor such a smash, this sequel was DOA.
Word to the wise Hollywood – learn to quit while you’re ahead.
See also: Kick Ass 2, Son of the Mask, Dumb and Dumberer
Images (c) Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures & Roadshow Films