In case there is any ambiguity about the premise of this particular blog post, it’s that most sequels to comedies really suck. Seriously. Quickly think of a comedy sequel that’s better than the original… not easy. There are examples and we’ll get to those later, but the vast majority of the time, it doesn’t work.
Why? This explanation might encompass the answer to most: most comedies aren’t made with a sequel or sequels in mind. While countless action films, superhero sagas, and sci-fi pics are made with “franchise” on the brain, this is rarely the case for comedies. Most comedy sequels come as an afterthought, after the original has made boatloads of money (unexpectedly in many cases).
Some of the very worst offenders involve comedy sequels where certain principal cast members didn’t even bother to come back. I give you Teen Wolf Too, released two years after the original where a young Jason Bateman took over the role for Michael J. Fox (who probably knew much better). The original made $33 million in 1985… the sequel made $7 million. And it’s awful.
There is not one, not two, but THREE examples of sequels to Jim Carrey comedies in which Mr. Carrey wisely did not return. There’s Son of the Mask, which tried and failed to keep that franchise going. Carrey’s Mask earned $119 million. The other one: $17 million.
New Line also tried to keep the saga of Lloyd and Harry going in Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd by casting the characters in their youth. Bad idea. Carrey’s movie: $127 million. The other one: $26 million.
And then there’s Evan Almighty, the sequel to Bruce Almighty, where Steve Carell took over. The film was expected to be a hit and had a huge budget, but it underperformed. Carrey’s movie: $242 million. The other one: $100 million. Not terrible, but well below expectations.
Of course, Carrey isn’t totally innocent. The sequel to 1994’s Ace Ventura: Pet Detective that came a year later, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, is pretty lame. Though it did well at the box office.
One of the most notoriously bad comedy sequels: Caddyshack II. Coming eight years after the classic original, only Chevy Chase bothered to make a return appearance. Bill Murray and Rodney Dangerfield knew better. In 1980, Caddyshack made $39 million. The sequel only managed $11 million. And I’m going to go ahead and assume you don’t go around often quoting lines from the sequel.
Chevy Chase would further offend with Fletch Lives, a vastly subpar sequel to the 1985 film. Original: $50 million. Sequel: $35 million. It tries hard to replicate the original’s charm. It doesn’t.
While we’re talking 80s comedy sequels, 1984’s Police Academy wasn’t that great in the first place, but it was a hit and spawned a LOT of sequels that pretty much suck equally. Even Steve Guttenberg knew to leave the franchise after a couple of them. That didn’t stop him, however, from making another bad comedy sequel: Three Men and a Little Lady, after the surprise hit Three Men and a Baby. The original: $167 million. The sequel: $71 million.
Then there’s the ill-conceived Blues Brothers 2000, which came two decades after the original and co-star John Belushi’s death. John Goodman took over the Belushi role, but audiences had little desire to see that. The original: $57 million. The sequel: $14 million.
Two forgettable sequels were made to the 1986 surprise hit Crocodile Dundee. A bad sequel to 1984’s Revenge of the Nerds was released in 1987.
And there’s my favorite comedy of all time: 1980’s Airplane! It’s sequel came and went two years later. I’ve seen Airplane! countless times. I’ve seen the second installment exactly once and it pales in comparison. Original: $83 million. Sequel: $27 million.
Probably the most anticipated sequel to an 80s comedy is 1989’s Ghostbusters 2, following up the 1984 smash hit. The first one is a total classic. The sequel is just OK. Original: $229 million. Sequel: $112 million.
Moving on to the 1990s, we have plenty of examples too. How about City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold, 1994’s follow-up to the 1991 hit. That unmemorable experience actually used the grand old soap opera tactic of bringing Jack Palance’s character back because… he had a twin brother no one knew about! Lame. So is the movie. Original: $124 million. Sequel: $43 million.
Two 1993 sequels to 1992 comedies tried and failed to capitalize on the original’s successes: Wayne’s World 2 and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habbit. 1995’s Father of the Bride Part II actually made good money, but it fails to match the first. Also, 1991’s Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear and 1994’s Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult performed decently, but couldn’t come close to the quality of the 1988 original.
Our previous decade brought us more comedy sequel disappointment: anyone think Legally Blonde 2 was better than the first? It did, however, gross only slightly less than the first ($96 million-$90 million). Or how about 2002’s mediocre Men in Black II, which was no match for the 1997 original (for that matter, MIB3 was underwhelming too). Or Steve Martin’s second Pink Panther flick… even though the first was nothing great either. Or the second Nutty Professor installment. Or the return of Martin Lawrence’s Big Momma… twice. Or 2002’s Analyze That, the sequel to Analyze This. That one made $32 million or $74 million less than the first. Also, 2001’s American Pie 2 and 2003’s American Wedding didn’t live up to the original, though both had their moments, I’ll admit.
As mentioned earlier, we do see exceptions from time to time. 1964’s A Shot in the Dark is actually the second Peter Sellers-Pink Panther movie and it’s widely considered the best. Meet the Fockers became the highest grossing comedy of all time upon its release, though I maintain it’s not near as good as Meet the Parents. And Little Fockers… ugh. By the same token, The Hangover sequel did enormous box office, though I basically thought it was a carbon copy of the original. The three sequels to Scary Movie all had some funny stuff in them too. The first Austin Powers is the funniest, though I think both sequels were solid.
Other comedy sequels that many believe are better or at least almost as good as the original: 1993’s Hot Shots: Part Deux. 1991’s Bill&Ted’s Bogus Journey, and 2006’s Clerks II. Also, many consider 1993’s Addams Family Values to be an improvement on the 1991 original.
Finally, there’s the the Good, the Bad, and the Just OK sequels that represent the Vacation movies. The 1983 original is one of the funniest films of all time. There were three sequels. The Good is obviously 1989’s Christmas Vacation. Very good, as a matter of fact.
The Bad is 1997’s embarrassing Vegas Vacation.
The Just OK is the first sequel, 1985’s European Vacation.
This all leads to us to wonder what category the upcoming sequels to Anchorman, Ted, and the third Hangover will fall under. And we’re going to get a proper Dumb and Dumber sequel, with Carrey and Jeff Daniels back. And this weekend, we’ll have the “sort of” sequel to Knocked Up – This is 40.
We can all hope and, in particular, I can’t wait to see Ron Burgundy, Brick, Champ, and Brian back in action. You may want to temper your expectations though, because generally the history of comedy sequels has been… well, sucky.