No More Comedy Sequels: Five Cautionary Tales
Anchorman 2, huh? I mean, yeah, I’m down, but it’s a bit weird to me that everyone’s so excited for it. Sequels to movies, even to crappy ones, are almost always met with contempt and fart noises. Then again, people never seem to shut up about them. Folks seemed truly disappointed when it was reported that Ghostbusters 3 had fallen through, but when National Lampoon celebrated April Fools’ Day by announcing on their Twitter the impending release of Animal House 2, people could not get up in arms fast enough.
Everybody knows the old song about how The Godfather: Part II and The Empire Strikes Back surpass the originals, and the same argument could also be made of other sequels, like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Predator 2. But with drama, you can take a premise and explore it, expand on it, and this can lend depth to already well-known characters. Try and do that with a comedy, and you just get the same old jokes. Exhibit A: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
So here for you, in handy list form, are five reasons why there should never be any more comedy sequels ever again. Go make Do the Right Thing 2: The Wrath of Radio Raheem, if you need a sequel to something so badly. Hell, I’d see that before Bridesmaids 2: Electric Bride-a-loo.
5. Fletch Lives (1989)
I don’t care how much you like Community or even Spies Like Us, the original Fletch from 1985 will go down in history as Chevy Chase’s greatest work, especially if my letter-writing campaign to my local congressman does the trick. Based on the book of the same name by Gregory Mcdonald, Fletch truly gave Chase his first moment to shine all by himself, without Randy Quaid or John Candy to help him out like in Vacation. The sequel should have been a no-brainer, what with the star and director Michael Ritchie returning, and featuring such fun guys to watch as Cleavon Little, Hal Holbrook, and Geoffrey Lewis. But Fletch screenwriter Andrew Bergman, who also wrote The In-Laws and the first draft of Blazing Saddles, did not return (which move must have cursed him to go on to make such blah movies as The Freshman and Soapdish). The unevenness of the plot never really gives Chase enough of a foothold to carry the picture like he did before. Not the worst comedy sequel ever made, but it certainly doesn’t help disprove Bill Murray’s infamous claim that Chase is “medium talent.”
4. Porky’s Revenge! (1985)
If Porky’s II: The Next Day had been the final installment in the Porky’s franchise, it would likely be taking up this position on the list, the funniest parts of the movie being the clips from the first that play behind the opening credits. But after the smashing success Porky’s had at the box office, you couldn’t really expect them not to make a sequel, even if director Bob Clark had his hands full with A Christmas Story at the same time. The well-meaning anti-racism plot, though ham-handed, does give the film some social significance, plus you get to see Cisse Cameron’s boobs. But Porky’s Revenge! is just completely without merit. What really burns me on this flick is not just the phoned-in script or lukewarm sex scenes, it’s the soundtrack. Purportedly taking place in 1955, Porky’s Revenge! features, as just one example, a version of Bobby Freeman’s “Do You Wanna Dance?”, a song which was not recorded until 1958. If there was more full-frontal in this flick, then maybe I could look the other way on this sort of anachronism, but alas, there was not.
3. Rock ‘n’ Roll High School Forever (1991)
A pretty good rule of thumb is if Comedy Central in the ‘90s had a movie in heavy rotation, then that movie is not very funny. That may even be the case now, but it was most definitely the case then. Rock ‘n’ Roll High School Forever is basically a straight-to-video rehash of the 1979 classic Roger Corman film Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, probably the only time you’ll hear “classic” and “Corman” in the same sentence. Corey Feldman, that poor bastard, takes on the P.J. Soles role of the rambunctious teenager who just wants nothing more than to rock. With his band, the Eradicators, they crank out embarrassing versions of old tunes like “Tutti Frutti” and “I’m Walking,” to the dismay of Dr. Vadar, played by Mary Woronov in a semi-reprisal of her role in the original. As proud as I am of the Ramones for refusing to participate in this abortion, it wouldn’t have been much worse than their Mondo Bizarro album and would have made the movie worth at least a single watch. But if the producers couldn’t even get Clint Howard to return to his role as Eaglebauer, one certainly can’t expect miracles.
2. Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach (1988)
Say what you will about Steve Guttenberg, but not only did his Bible set the stage for the Protestant Reformation, he was also the lynchpin of the beloved Police Academy series. Sure, a lotta folks will say Michael Winslow and his sound effects drove the series, or that the tremendous performances of G.W. Bailey and Art Metrano as the despicable villains are what people most remember. But Guttenberg as Carey Mahoney was absolutely the centerpiece of these films, and nowhere is this more obvious than in his absence from Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach, a title with far too many colons in it. Attempting to fill Sgt. Mahoney’s massive shoes (and I do mean massive, ladies) is Matt McCoy as Nick Lassard, Commandant Lassard’s impish young nephew. McCoy is undoubtedly better remembered as George Costanza’s arch-rival Lloyd Braun on Seinfeld, and that is definitely good news for him. The series only went more downhill from here, without even Tim Kazurinsky or Bobcat Goldthwait to lighten the load. Fun fact: This film was later remade as Reno 911!: Miami.
1. Caddyshack II (1988)
If you ever feel like making your brain melt but can’t afford the expensive pharmaceuticals necessary, just watch this movie back-to-back with the original Caddyshack from 1980. I assure you from experience, it will feel as though your gray matter is coming out of your nose (warning: do not attempt to watch Caddyshack II while operating heavy machinery). Directed by Allan Arkush (oddly enough, Arkush also directed the original Rock ‘n’ Roll High School), this is possibly not only the worst sequel, but simply the worst comedy ever made, and I say that having seen Pure Luck and Blame It on the Bellboy. Harold Ramis, who co-wrote the original with Brian Doyle-Murray and Doug Kenney, gets a writing credit for this as well, though to hear him tell the story later, his draft was completely excised and the only reason he didn’t remove his name entirely was because news of such “would hurt the film” before its release (though I can’t imagine ever hurting this film as much as it’s hurt me). I suppose it’s a mixed blessing that Doug Kenney died and/or killed himself before this utter turd was released, because who knows how he might have reacted otherwise.
So again: Anchorman 2, huh? I think it will be good, but I also think that these guys might be taking an unnecessary risk with a sequel rather than rolling the bones on another original script. But seriously, before you get all your comment-panties in a bunch, I sincerely hope I’m wrong and the above list is merely a historical record of comedy sequels and not a blueprint for their future.
And I am often wrong, so there’s that.