For my movie-going entertainment, nothing is better than a good comedy. And so, when announcements of sequels to my favorite funny movies are made, I get excited. I hope the key members of the original will be back, and that random throw-away lines will be expounded upon. I hope that the movie recaptures the magic of the original, and provides its own laugh. And, generally speaking, that doesn’t happen.
Recently, Nicholas Stoller, director of funny movies such as “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “The Five-Year Engagement,” and “Neighbors,” spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the art of directing a comedy sequel and crafted rules for directing a comedy sequel, rules which include “the story should be different, but the themes should be the same” and “cut out the fan service.” While I respect Mr. Stoller’s work, both “Get Him to the Greek” and “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” show that directing a comedy sequel inevitably leads to these fatal flaws. Let’s take a look.
Off the top of my head, here are some comedy sequels that are worse than the original,in no particular order:
The Hangover Part 2, The Hangover Part 3, Zoolander 2, Harold & Kumar Go to Guantanamo Bay, A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Get Him to the Greek*, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Ghostbusters II, This is 40*, Wayne’s World 2, Cars 2, Monsters University**, Muppets Most Wanted***, Dumb and Dumber To, American Pie 3/American Wedding, Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls, Evan Almighty, Fletch Lives, City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold, Clerks II, Legally Blonde 2: Red White and Blonde, Major League II, Men in Black 2 and Men in Black 3, Home Alone 2, Meet the Fockers, Little Fockers, Shrek 2, Shrek 3, and Shrek the Fourth.
*Spin-off of character(s) from original film
***Sequel to an earlier film, but in a long line of Muppets movies
What do all of these movies have in common besides being worse than the films that came before them? They all violate at least one of the two rules listed above, or one other important rule which I will get to in a moment. The Hangover 2? That’s the exact same story as the first one, just in a different setting. Zoolander 2? All fan service. But the rule that most of these movies violate? They’re not funny! This is 40 is by conservative estimates named that because it’s 40 minutes too long. The less said about the sequels to Harold and Kumar, Wayne’s World, and Dumb and Dumber, the better, and the same goes for the other movies mentioned above. How many times have I (we?) been duped by advertising to go see a sequel due to fondness for its original, only to leave the theater and say “Man, I wish they had left the original alone?”
To my mind, the only recent comedy sequels that have lived up to their predecessors are 22 Jump Street, Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3, American Pie 2, and Austin Powers and the Spy Who Shagged Me. And that’s a very bare list, without a movie that I truly love on it.
So the next time I hear casting rumors about Old School 2 (Jack Black, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson start a rival frat!) or Elf (Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel have to save the North Pole!), or hope for a follow-up to, say, “Sleeping with Other People “or anything with Kevin Hart, maybe it’s better to let the original stay golden, and for Hollywood to come up with an original idea. Or, you know, a reboot.
Any good comedy sequels I forgot to mention? Tell me in the comments.