Let’s face it, sequels are always going to be made to successful films. And as studios continue to look for more sure-fire options to make money they’re going to rely on finding ways to re-package something popular and sell it to consumers as many times as possible until they can’t make money from it (i.e. The Law of Diminishing Returns). And while the comic book, horror, and action genre seem to do fine for the most part crafting sequels comedy is a different story. And with films like Zoolander 2 and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising already out the gate I wanted to look at how and why these sequels can succeed/fail.
-When Sequels Succeed-
There are the occasional sequels that can be just as much, if not more fun than their predecessors. 22 Jump Street upped the game of the previous film with the help of a bigger budget and a little more creative freedom. The same can be said for the often well regarded Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. So what sets these apart from the majority? First I’d have to say that they explore new ground that the originals left untouched. With Jump Street we saw how Schmidt pulling away from Jenko affected their relationship, but in the sequel it was flipped around. Now Schmidt is once again the “cool” kid and it upsets the dynamic in a different way. With The Spy Who Shagged Me we got to see our hero become less self-confident. With the theft of his “mojo” the suave-ish Austin Powers now lacks any true esteem in his masculinity and he begins to question himself. It’s interesting to watch as the overly-confident hero from the last film is now having an existential crisis. That’s a very rare thing to see most other genres let alone comedy. The other thing both of these films do right is lampoon their own style. What was a funny joke in the previous film may get tweaked enough to give it a fresh and sometimes funnier delivery.
-When Sequels Fail-
Okay, we already know that nine times out of ten a comedy isn’t going to be funny. It’s one of the most difficult genres to crack as it’s one of the most subjective art-forms out there. What I find funny and what most of the people reading this find funny will probably not sync up. Which is extremely difficult when you come to realize that everyone tends to “get” drama films or action films. Neither have a wide spectrum for interpretation. But look at comedy’s wide range. There’s dark humor (Coen Brothers), slapstick (Much of the original black and white comedies), gross-out (Pretty much anything made by the Frat Pack), and sketch (SNL and a lot of Comedy Central shows) to name just a few. So right off the bat the deck is stacked against the creator, but what if they succeed? What comes next? More often than not comedies are written with the intention of making you laugh for 90+ minutes and being done. Rarely are stories left open-ended to make a follow-up. This means that a new hook has to be crafted in order to propel the story forward. The only problem is finding a new hook is extremely difficult. So instead of waiting it out most writers will re-use the original film’s formula hoping to replicate the success. This is by no means a problem that plagues only comedy sequels, but for some reason it’s most noticeable in comedy. Whether it be The Hangover Part II or Dumb and Dumber To they try to replicate with no deviation. It’s like eating leftovers that are a few years old. Even worse are comedies that truly serve no purpose but to shamelessly cash in on a hit. The biggest offenders of this are the pop culture garbage heaps that are Weekend at Bernie’s II and Caddyshack 2. Neither of them should even exist, but do because some studio executive thought they could make money and farted out scripts with no real expectation of the product being good. It’s brand recognition at it’s worse.
As usual, what are your thoughts? What comedy sequels do you think stand beside their predecessor? Do you just hate sequels overall? What comedy recently made could have a good sequel?