The word ‘sequel’ comes to us from the Latin word ‘sequi’, which translates as ‘follow’. It’s also closely related to the Latin word ‘sequela’, meaning ‘a disease or condition which is caused by an earlier disease or problem’. Given the glut of needless and tiresome sequels produced by Hollywood throughout the years, I think the second translation is the more relevant one.
The list of high-profile cinematic sequels that can’t hold the jock strap of the beloved originals is fairly long indeed (Godfather III, any of the last three Star Wars entries, The Next Karate Kid, Batman & Robin, and Caddyshack II come to mind immediately), but what about the ones that passed virtually unnoticed like so many silent farts? Do they not stink just as badly? Why yes, yes they do. Hold your nose and check out this sampling of six totally pointless movie sequels.
Road House 2: Last Call (2006)
Pain don’t hurt, but watching this piece of crap sure do. Like most direct-to-landfill cash grabs, Last Call is related to its predecessor in name only. The lead character, a DEA agent named Shane Tanner, is supposedly the son of Dalton — the immortal cooler portrayed by the late Patrick Swayze in the 1989 original. Tanner ends up in Louisiana to avenge someone or other, and ends up taking over a seedy bar called the Black Pelican. There’s drug running, natch, and Tanner butts heads with Black Pelican cooler Bill “Wild Bill” Decarie. In a brilliant bit of casting, Decarie is played by none other than the immortal Jake Busey, who proves he’s no Ben Gazzara. Sh-boom!
Ace Ventura Jr.: Pet Detective (2009)
What Kidz Bop is to music this movie is to, well, Ace Ventura movies. Apparently all it takes to establish oneself as the chubby progeny of the Jim Carrey character is the ability to utter his trademark “Allllrighty then!” catchphrase in a manner that’s kind of vaguely reminiscent of the original. And hey, did you know there’s another Cusack sibling? I didn’t either, but her name is Ann.
WarGames: The Dead Code (2008)
It seems pretty obvious that the creative juice behind the Road House and Ace Ventura brands was already exhausted after the first films, but WarGames coulda been a contender. Technology’s come a long way since the days of Matthew Broderick and his super-powered floppy drives, and a new movie could’ve told a compelling story with fresh insight. Instead, the screenwriters decided to just play Mad Libs with the original and turned in the uninspired Dead Code.
You remember the original story, right? A computer-savvy teen wants to play a top-secret game, only it turns out to be a gateway into an automated government war computer. The computer goes apeshit and decides to start a real war, only to be thwarted by the kid and his plucky sidekick. Pretty cool huh?
Yeah, that’s also the plot for The Dead Code. Oh, but the supercomputer is named Audrey instead of WOPR, so it’s totally a new movie! And they even brought back the Prof. Falken character for a bit, so he can reactivate WOPR with the same friggin’ password Matthew Broderick used almost 30 years ago. The only winning move is not to watch.
It Runs in the Family/My Summer Story (1994)
While it seems impossible to think of any Christmas season being complete without watching A Christmas Story at least once, the film wasn’t universally loved when it was released in 1983. Only when it became an HBO staple in the mid-’80s did audiences start to warm up to it, and of course now its place in the pantheon of great holiday movies is secure. So it makes some sense that a sequel of sorts didn’t appear until a decade later.
Originally titled It Runs in the Family (now known as My Summer Story), the film had some of the right ingredients. Like A Christmas Story, it was based on the work of Jean Shepherd (who narrates once again), and it followed the exploits of Ralphie Parker and his family. But it just wasn’t the same. For one, Kieran Culkin’s Ralphie doesn’t have the same earnest charm of Peter Billingsley’s. But overall the whole thing just feels like a pale imitation of the original, right down to the recycled soundtrack. Trading Darren McGavin for Charles Grodin doesn’t help the cause either.
The movie was a flop by any standard (grossing less than $100,000), and is now all but forgotten. I only happened upon it by chance when it briefly hit the cable movie network circuit soon after its release.
They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! (1970)
I’m guessing that not a lot of people from my generation are familiar with Sidney Poitier’s groundbreaking role in the acclaimed 1967 crime drama In the Heat of the Night (which later became a TV series co-starring Archie Bunker). Fewer still probably know that Poitier’s Virgil Tibbs character appeared in not one, but two sequels. The first was 1970’s They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!, which got its name from the famous quote from the first movie. While Heat is considered a landmark film for its exploration of institutional racism in the Deep South, Tibbs! is more or less a by-the-numbers crime story. A prostitute is murdered in the opening scene (it took fewer than five minutes for boobs to make their appearance, which I appreciated), a high-profile preacher (Martin Landau) is accused of the deed, and Virgil Tibbs is on the case. Meh. An equally forgettable third entry, The Organization, was released in 1971.
On the plus side, the film sports a super-funky soundtrack by Quincy Jones, giving the film a much different feel than Heat. Partly because of that it gets lumped in with the wave of Blaxploitation films that were ubiquitous in the first half of the ’70s. In reality, though, it shares more in common with other gritty crime dramas of the era like Dirty Harry (which just happened to also take place in San Francisco).
Mannequin Two: On the Move (1991)
I know what you’re thinking — How could they possibly hope to improve on the subtle wit and abundant charm of Mannequin? They couldn’t. Not even Herman from Herman’s Head could lift this retread of the 1987 original. And poor, poor Meshach Taylor, forced to reprise his role as Hollywood Montrose. I can’t quite make out what that word bubble says in the movie poster, but I’m pretty sure it’s “Kill me now. For the love of God, kill me now.”
On the other hand, Mannequin Two does feature the greatest go-cart chase scene since The Toy.