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David Poland

By David Poland


I don’t mind the LAT riffing on an idea I offered up repeatedly in the last few days… that The Hangover: Part II has opened so big because audiences were happy to see the guys back, doing pretty much a minor variation on what they did last time (ratcheting up the harshness), and that WB marketed to exactly that.

But I wish they didn’t make such mincemeat of the idea, trying to turn it into a trend piece.

Just the facts…

Zeitchik offers, “Those (sequeled comedies) that succeed tend to hew very closely to their originals.”

Of course, Zeitchik already threw away Sex & The City 2, last year’s example of a carbon copy of a well-known product whose opening dropped 46% from the first film domestically.

Last summer was light on sequels AND comedies, but note that non-comedy sequels Iron Man 2 opened better than the first with pretty much the same schtick, but The Karate Kid hit the jackpot by changing up the formula dramatically.

Evan Almighty is as freaky a possible example as you could come up with (aside from Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans), as the second movie not only was without the then biggest comedy star in the world, but completely dumped the original’s successful premise. If you remember, the pitch for Bruce Almighty included Bruce getting the power of God from God, but endlessly pushed him blowing a girl’s skirt up, making Jennifer Aniston’s breasts bigger, and a dog peeing in a toilet on his own. The sequel was about a good man called on to save the world and going all The Santa Clause as he becomes Noah. DQ!

Night At The Museum 2 wasn’t a major variation from the original… except by date. It went from being a holiday movie to being in the heat of summer competition. But all the major characters were back… they just added a couple more. The sequel also suffered from something many sequels of all stripes suffer from… a great idea that was a bit played out. NATM is still an important film to museums. But the idea of the stuff in the museum coming to life was exciting… once.

Bruno also suffered from a chance in the playing field. Borat was completely unexpected. Bruno was unavoidably anticipated. Borat indulged our xenophobia, but was also quite gentle. Bruno was about homophobia and media insanity, but all that really got notice was the gay… which also, by the way, turned some homophobic audiences off. Audiences could think Borat was an ass, but not feel concerned that they would be called out for it. Hate Bruno and you could be on the wrong side of political correctness. But on the most basic level, Bruno was NOT a sequel to Borat… at all… anymore than Bridesmaids is a sequel to Get Him To The Greek.

On the flip side, Meet The Fockers was not a direct copy of Meet The Parents. In fact, it was strongly driven by love of the original, but the very strong addition of Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman, who not only added star power, but added a whole new set of character relationships. They were as accepting of their son’s new family as DeNiro was not. Third time around, when they moved forward without Hoffman, they went back and added him at the last minute because his absence was not testing well.

Look… ALL sequels… and most “originals” are variations on a very, very familiar theme. This was the key to “high concept” fillmmaking… a phrase you rarely hear these days.

There are two kinds of sequels, those that extend the story and those that repeat the story with some variation, usually a small one. American Pie extended the story the second time, which meant a big opening, and then a third time, when it opened well, but not nearly as well as the first sequel.

In the Austin Powers films, which Zeitchik mentions as a repetitive, things changed in a copy of how Bond changed, changing female leads both times. But in the third film not only added Michael Caine (hat tip to Indiana Jones), but loaded up on celebrity cameos for the first time.

Ghostbusters II did less than half of what the original did domestically, though it opened to double.

The king of comedy sequels, Eddie Murphy, has been all over the place with sequels to 48 Hrs, Beverly Hills Cop, The Nutty Professor, and Doctor Dolittle. Only Dr. Dolittle 2 did less on opening weekend the second time around. But only Another 48 Hrs grossed more than the original domestically… by $2 million… 8 years later. I don’t think anyone can say that any of these sequels changed much at all.

Martin Lawrence did it three times (House Party, Bad Boys, Big Momma’s House), but only the one in which his partner, Will Smith, emerged as one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, did better the second time around. Again, all were near carbon copies. Bad Boys 2 doubled its gross domestically but cost at least 8 times as much to produce and market.

Three Men & A Lady… getting the gang back together led to a bigger opening and less than half the domestic gross. Rush Hour was much bigger the second time around… and grossed less than the original the third time around. Analyze That couldn’t match the original in opening or total. Miss Congeniality 2 opened bigger, but grossed less than half the original domestically. Crocodile Dundee II had triple the opening and 40% of the domestic total. Porky’s 2 opened about the same as the original, but grossed less than a third of the first. Wayne’s World 2 opened to less and grossed less than half the first film. City Slickers 2 opened weaker than the original and grossed about a third. Even the Ocean’s movies… all started about the same domestically… and each made progressively less.

And I think I have now covered every sequeled comedy in which at least one of the films grossed at least $100m domestic. (Please feel free to offer any films I might have left out. But I think I got them all.)

It’s kind of amazing, really, how few comedy sequels there are. Twenty-one in history on this list with one of the two films being a 9-figure grosser. And I will tell you why, in general. A big comedy hit is magic in a bottle… not just concept and effects. Sequels almost always cost a lot more than the original, the odds of hitting again are low, and making the second movie reasonably good is even less likely.

What you see a lot more of is the repetition of teams and leaders. So you have Apatow, Ferrell, Carrey, Sandler, Farrelly, Murphy, etc. Adam Sandler has NEVER made a sequel… yet many would say that every Sandler movie is virtually a sequel. Same with Will Ferrell. Carrey’s only sequel was to Ace Ventura, early in his movie career.

I’d love to see the Anchorman sequel… but I understand the studio’s position. It would likely cost a LOT more and the odds are that it would, no matter how good, make a little less than the original.

The times you do see them take the leap is when the first film was a wildly overachieving underdog, like Meet The Parents or Ace Ventura or, for that matter, Sex & The City. Then the more expensive sequel is, say, the normal price for a comedy with a big comedy star, and the hope for it to be a much bigger film is there. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes not.

And interestingly – I just arrived at this notion as I was writing – this fits The Hangover too. A $35 million movie that grossed $475m worldwide with three non-box-office-names is catnip. According to reports (unconfirmed by me) the sequel still cost less than $100 million to make. So cut the gross in half and there is still no money lost. Match the gross and make very good money (given the back end). Top the gross and make mega-bucks.

Each movie is its own proposition. There are good decisions and bad. But there is no trend.

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34 Responses to “Originality/Hangover/LAT”

  1. LexG says:

    What about Smokey & the Bandit II and III! (Probably going back way too far…)

    But interesting thing is how many COMEDY SEQUELS wind up fairly forgotten– the aforementioned City Slickers II, Wayne’s World II, Caddyshack II, Arthur 2, Short Circuit 2, The Sting II. And even though it was a huge hit, yeah, I’d argue the second Ace Ventura never had close to the rewatch of its predecessor.

    I sort of consider the 48HRS movies more hard action films than “comedy,” plus I’m a HUGE fan of the sequel, think it’s really underrated and a great late-night, sleazy, bluesy, unpleasant after-hours Walter Hill movie like Johnny Handsome or Trespass; But interesting that it made roughly the same as the original. I know eight years made a big difference in BO figures from early 83 to summer 1990, and Eddie’s salary probably was 15-20 times higher… But I just remember Another 48HRS being treated like some massive underperformer and disappointment that summer (as was Days of Thunder, and everyone was beating up on Paramount for that duo, until Ghost came along and turned the tides… then at Christmas Godfather III was enough revert the discussion back to a WHAT WENT WRONG?! re: Paramount 1990).

  2. Eldrick says:

    How about action-comedy lex? Another 48hrs was pretty good like you say. Since when do we listen to critics regarding comedy. It’s way to subjective a genre. Coming To America got mixed reviews yet it’s probably the most enduring Murphy comedy.

  3. LYT says:

    Action-comedy and sci-fi comedy are their own separate deals.

    Lethal Weapon 2
    MIIB: Men in Black 2
    Addams Family Values
    Bad Boys 2
    Crocodile Dundee 2
    The Jewel of the Nile

  4. JB says:

    How about the reigning all-time highest grossing comedy, Home Alone? Even in 1990 dollars, it still outranks Meet the Fockers and The Hangover.

    Its sequel – which, like Hangover Part II, basically just replayed the same movie with amped up gags in a new city and had characters repeatedly tell the audience they couldn’t believe the same farfetched premise was happening again just two years later – grossed less than half what the original did, but still pulled in $173.5 million.

  5. leahnz says:

    what about ‘back to the future II’? and bill and ted’s bogus journey?

    (i actually don’t really get the point of this post, but i thought i’d throw those out there because nobody’s mentioned them so far and they seem germane)

    and what about the best comedy sequel of all time, ‘fierce creatures’, which subverts the original?

    (that was a joke, tho i do find ‘fierce creatures’ hilarious, but i acknowledge i may be its sole fan)

  6. jesse says:

    Leah, I also dig Fierce Creatures. It’s not nearly as great as Fish Called Wanda but it’s pretty damn funny. In some ways, Fierce Creatures anticipates the Apatow/Ferrell/Rogen/etc. model for non-sequels, where instead of revisiting the exact same characters, a lot of the better comedians are now far more likely to just do another movie with the same team. Even Sandler, as Dave points out, does this.

    I disagree with Dave’s take on Anchorman 2, though, and how it would make a “little less” than the original. If the original had made 100 or 120, maybe. But the first one did, what, 85? Off of an opening of 28 or so? It’s actually the lowest-grossing of the Ferrell-McKay movies, so for Anchorman 2 to do less, it would have to set a new record low for their collaboration. With all of the DVD and cable love for Anchorman, and Ferrell/McKay movies routinely opening in the 30-40 million range, you have to figure Anchorman 2 would be in a position to open to at least 40, after which it would be difficult for it not to pass 85. Possible, but pretty unlikely. (And that’s assuming a $40 million opening. I could see Anchorman 2 opening closer to 45 or 50 or more, given that Talladega Nights hit that range five years ago.)

    It’s not quite in the Austin Powers mode of a movie that did OK and built up a strong video following, but at the same time, it’s closer to that than to The Hangover in terms of potential to expand.

    But Dave is right on about the unsoundness of the LA Times theory of comedy sequels. The Hangover II to me most resembles those eighties-style sequels where everything has to go back to the way it was at the beginning of the first movie and then basically the same story happens all over again… and those movies were not known for outgrossing or usually even matching their predecessors.

    Also, LYT, I don’t quite get what you’re talking about when you list those action/sci-fi comedy sequels. Some of those did better than the originals and some didn’t. Addams Family Values came out the same season as Wayne’s World 2; they’re both quite good as comedy sequels (especially Addams Family Values — significantly funnier than the original) and both failed to replicate the surprise-hit $100+ million status of the originals, both topping out around 50.

  7. Hallick says:

    I gotta put up my own props for Fierce Creatures too. No, it wasn’t as good as A Fish Called Wanda, but there was still a lot about it on its own merits that was really appealing. And there’s also some poignant stuff about Cleese’s character having gotten old that hits home in a shot of some pictures from his youth that captures Cleese’s own aging that I found really touching at the time.

  8. The Big Perm says:

    Yeah, the 48 Hrs movies aren’t comedies. The only comedic character in them is really Eddie, and of course you get the humorous interplay with Nolte. But when Nolte is on his own, he’s not being hilarious. I also like Another 48 Hrs…it’s not GREAT, but it has some really great action scenes. It’s good enough. From the movies Lex mentions, I really prefer Trespass (AWESOME) or Johnny Handsome. Trespass is probably one of my favorite Hill movies, I just love pictures where everyone goes crazy for gold and double crosses each other. It was so much different than the trailers suggested, which was another Die Hard rip off, like every other action movie in the 90s.

    And agree with jesse, DP is INSANE if he thinks Anchorman makes less than the first. Zero chance. ZERO.

  9. anghus says:

    good piece. comedy sequels are always going to struggle with matching the original’s success, both creatively and financially.

    i actually preferred Hangover 2 for the same reason someone else mentioned on here: it felt like a funny story instead of setup/gag, setup/gag.

    And Anchorman is my favorite comedy. It has built such a following over the years that i can’t see how it could do less, but i think dave’s got a point on the cost analysis.

    If it costs 80 million to make Anchorman 2, what are the odds of it clearing 160 million domestic?

  10. Geoff says:

    Comedy sequels can be just tough to pull off – even not accounting for the money, it’s just hard to get the principles back together within a reasonable amount of time if their careers took off as a result of the first one. That HAS to be part of the reason it’s been tough to get Anchorman 2 off the ground, again – pulling together Rudd, Carrell, and Ferrell can’t be easy.

    One of the great coulda-been sequels of the ’90’s was My Cousin Vinny – the first one made solid money and I remember hearing how a sequel set in England was set to happen in the mid ’90’s for a while. Guess it just didn’t happen because Pesci and Tomeii’s stocks were pretty high at the time…..

    Jesse, you are spot-on about how much easier it has became to just gather similar casts with the same creative team behind them a la Apatow… example: Pretty Woman 2 was just never going to happen, would have been tough to pull off story-wise and I’m sure Roberts’ fee would have been astronomical. So Runaway Bride happened and it made bank…I actually liked it a lot better than Pretty Woman. Until Stanley Tucci made it his wheelhouse, no one was better at that romantic comedy side characters than Hector Elizondo.

  11. jesse says:

    anghus, fair point that Anchorman 2 would cost 80 today instead of the 30 or whatever that the original cost… but I think it could clear 160 domestic. Not definite, but not unthinkable. And I think moreover, the studio would basically have a near-GUARANTEED $125 million, very possible more, along with a DVD/Blu-Ray that, if the movie was even halfway decent, would sell like crazy. Isn’t that (budget of 80, minimum gross of 120, big on disc) basically the cost model for all Sandler movies lately? Granted, they should cost less than they do, given what’s on screen. But on the other hand, Anchorman 2 would open bigger than Sandler’s very strong typical opening.

    Geoff, the scheduling issue is why a lot of fans found it so frustrating that Paramount passed on the movie — apparently Ferrell and McKay had worked out a provisional schedule/proposal that would’ve been able to slot in Carell and Rudd. Maybe they would not have been able to pull it off, but it seems like the trickiest part was on its way toward being solved.

    I was just thinking about what a solid comedy My Cousin Vinny is, and how today’s second-tier comedy directors — your Anne Fletchers, Andy Tennants, and so on — aren’t nearly as skilled as someone like, say, Jonathan Lynn, who has directed plenty of misses over the years… but, on the other hand, did semi-old-fashioned high-concept-y studio/mainstream comedies like My Cousin Vinny, Clue, and The Whole Nine Yards. (I even remember liking Sgt. Bilko pretty well when I saw it when it came out, but that was ages ago.)

    In fact, I just looked him up on IMDB and I had:

    (a.) forgotten that he directed The Fighting Temptations… what a strange fit for a British dude specializing in farces and such, a sappy Beyonce/Cuba choir non-comedy.

    (b.) no idea that he directed Wild Target, that Bill Nighy/Emily Blunt comedy that came and went last year. Now I kind of want to Netflix it.

    Frank Oz, similarly, could really do a nice job with a mainstream comedy, although I hated the English Death at a Funeral (never saw the American one).

  12. This ended up more ‘free association’ than I intended… apologies.

    Frankly, there is no conspiracy/trend behind The Hangover II’s breakout. The film was going to explode whether it was a virtual remake or whether it was something wholly different. I doubt the marketing would have changed much, and it was the marketing that drew the opening. Everyone (including me) tossed around Home Alone 2, but that film was the fifth film in history to open above $30 million back in 1992 (after Batman, Terminator 2, Lethal Weapon 3, and Batman Returns). Not a bad example to emulate.

    As far as the ‘sameness’ of the film, that basically how sequels used to be. Prior to the Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter combo of 2001, sequels were either carbon-copy remakes of the original or merely ‘another day in the life of our main characters’. That’s why Scream 3 always rang false, because when the characters blabbed about ‘the rules of the trilogy’, they basically meant ‘stuff that happened in Return of the Jedi’. Other than Back to the Future and The Godfather, most sequels were basically just ‘another adventure’.

    It was only after LotR and Potter that we got a bunch of would-be franchise starters that were basically glorified pilots to an interlocked and ongoing story (most of these, many of which never made it to part II, were based on existing lit series or comic books anyway). But even over the last ten years, only a few original franchises really went nuts with that idea (Matrix, Pirates of the Caribbean, Saw, Kung Fu Panda) and Pirates and Matrix both got attacked for NOT delivering ‘more of the same’ or ‘just another adventure’. So the fact that Hangover II didn’t ‘expand the Hangover mythology and open up new avenues of long-form storytelling’ shouldn’t be all that surprising. The only flaw is that its ‘day in the life’ story was so damn identical in a beat-for-beat fashion as the first one.

    Oh, and for what it’s worth, my vote for best comedy sequel goes hands-down to Addams Family Values. It also wins the prize for biggest jump in quality from the first film to the second. And the worst goes to Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. It is painfully unfunny and every bit as dumb and obnoxious as the first film is brilliant and almost subtle. Worse, it basically cops out at the end by letting Bush/Cheney off the moral hook for the various War on Terror civil rights abuses (basically everything that went wrong with law enforcement after 9/11 was the fault of overzealous ‘bad apples’) and sells the lies that ‘only guilty men went to Gitmo’ and ‘George W. Bush was just a regular guy like you and me’.

  13. christian says:

    “as the first film is brilliant and almost subtle.”

    Comedy really is subjective. The first one was as loud and stupid as the second.

  14. Krillian says:

    Wild Target wasn’t worth it. Likeable cast and all, but on no planet is Martin Freeman a cold-blooded expert assassin, among other things.

  15. nikki whisperer says:

    Audiences are not dumb and are pretty loyal, until a studio gives them a reason to be otherwise. On the first sequel to movies that were relatively “surprise” breakouts, it’s not uncommon for the opening weekend to come close to the earlier film’s entire gross, as all the pent up demand means the fans all see it at once en masse. One film that no one has mentioned and is a perfect example is “Austin Powers.” The first was a respectable performer, but people loved it and watched it over and over on video and the sequel had a massive opening. Of course, it was kind of disappointing, which made people more gun-shy for the third one, which was worse and underperformed. This also happens with actors who build up goodwill. The first Will Ferrell movie after the exacta of “Elf” and “Anchorman” was “Blades of Glory,” which over-performed but kinda sucked and is a pale carbon copy of his work with Adam McKay. After that, people weren’t as psyched for “Semi-Pro.” Studios are often penny-wise and pound-foolish in this regard: Do a good sequel, the sky’s the limit.; piss your biggest fans off and you risk killing a franchise. It’s not rocket science. On that note, given how godawful MEN IN BLACK 2 was, I wonder if #3 may not be the financial juggernaut Sony is hoping for.

  16. Austin Powers 3: Goldmember opened bigger ($72m vs $54m) and grossed more domestically ($213m vs $206m) than Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Yes, Austin Powers 3 made a bit less overseas, but it was not a case of audiences being gun-shy about the second installment. While I vigorously disagree, the consensus among critics/audiences was that The Spy Who Shagged Me was just as good if not better than Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (I remember being psyched for Spy Who Shagged Me due to the terrific trailer and overly positive reviews only to be very disappointed). If anything, it was the third film, Goldmember, that audiences turned on the franchise after the fact, whereby Myers was smart enough to quit while he was ahead.

    As for Semi-Pro, it was an R-rated period pic that was more of a Woody Harrelson drama than a Will Ferrell comedy. Considering how awful New Line was at opening anything in their post-Lord of the Rings, pre-Warner takeover era (Hairspray and perhaps Rush Hour 3 being the exceptions), I’d blame its $15m opening weekend as much on the New Line marketing as backlash from Blades of Glory. I guess my question is, was anyone that passionate about it either way in March 2007? I saw it on opening night, felt I got my money’s worth, and never gave it a second thought. It wasn’t quite as ambitious as Ferrell’s ‘big-comedy’ follow-up to Anchorman, Talladega Nights (which almost qualified as an ‘epic comedy’), but it worked pretty well at its more modest goals.

    As for Men in Black III… yeah, Sony has to be nervous about the money they are plowing through on that one…

  17. David Poland says:

    Again, would be happy to see an Anchorman 2.

    But… only 2 Ferrell movies have done $120 million or more… Elf, which is not traditional Ferrell/McKay… and Talladega Nights, which is the high of the duo.

    I am not saying, “It would make less!!!” What I am saying is that history says it could… and if it makes more, it would be a reach to assume $148 million or $140 million. $110 million is a pretty fair target for the financiers.

    Then you look at the numbers. If Anchorman 2 is $100 million movie to make (as was The Other Guys) and Ferrell’s non-Elf high is $170m (also for The Other Guys), is this a good investment?

    Only 6% of the Anchorman gross was international. The Other Guys was 30%, in some part because of the non-comedy cast of Wahlberg, Sam Jackson, The Rock, and Eva Mendes.

    So on a $140m domestic gross, even doubling the international percentage, it is a $157m worldwide gross, returning about $85m to the studio/distributor… against production and a very conservative worldwide marketing cost of $100 million. So you have a $115 million hole for post-theatrical to fill.

    So you guys tell me…

    And NikkiWhisp… MIB3 is one of the craziest greenlights EVER. MIB2 was not only not good, it was $150m ww off the original and likely in red ink. They still claim it cost only $140m… but they also gave away a lot of backend.

    Presumably in this case, they are mostly backending all the above-the-line money, except maybe Sonnenfeld. But that’s still very dangerous. Someone must be convinced that Hancock numbers can be achieved this time… but even then, a lot of risk for not a lot of profit potential.

  18. Joe Leydon says:

    I know I have raised this point before, but: How often does a sequel fail to equal or top the gross of its smash hit predecessor simply because, even though a lot folks paid to see it, many of them didn’t actually like it? For example: It was my impression, judging from e-mail I received from readers, that even though many people flocked to see Blair Witch Project, a lot of them downright hated the movie, and felt like they had been (a) ripped off by the filmmakers, and (b) misled by the critics. So I was not exactly surprised that the Blair Witch sequel did what it did.

  19. jesse says:

    Dave, I guess the point is that your logic would be pretty reasonable if studios seemed to (a.) go for fiscally logical greenlights all the time or even most of the time and/or (b.) be averse to overspending sequels/brand names/franchises in any way.

    So maybe Anchorman 2 is some kind of a gamble. But is it a gamble on par with, as you point out, Men in Black III? Or making a $200 million movie out of BATTLESHIP starring Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, and the guy who played Gambit?

    Also, I’ve noticed you tend to emphasize high points and making them the ceiling. No, there isn’t a Ferrell/McKay movie over $150 million. But the Ferrell/McKay average is about $115 million. That seems more relevant to me in establishing a baseline. Think of Mike Myers and, as Scott brings up, the sequel to that movie. Using the peak-as-ceiling estimations, you could’ve said, about Spy Who Shagged Me: no Mike Myers comedy has done more than $125 million domestic. And suddenly there was a $200 million Austin Powers movie (hell, pure demand/inflation/whatever got the third one even higher, albeit only slightly) (for the record: except for the novelty of the first one’s concept, in terms of pure laughs/quality, I’d say those three movies are all about the same on the average; virtually indistinguishable except, like I said, the concept is a little more pure in the first go-round). Hell, look at Sandler. RE: Grown Ups, one could’ve said, look, Sandler movies hardly ever gross over $150 million… which is true. But that’s not going to stop one from getting the extra $10 or $15 million if the climate or the movie or release date is right. And if you look at Sandler’s average, $165 million doesn’t seem so unreachable.

    Not that Anchorman 2 is a go-to instant $200 million. Or even $165 million. But it’s probably still the most BELOVED Ferrell movie apart from MAYBE Elf or Old School. If you could do it for under $100 million (and I think you could; Carell and Rudd and Ferrell are all bigger now, but do they get 20 mil apiece? Hell, does Rudd get 9?), it seems like a safer bet than about half of any given summer schedule.

  20. nikki whisperer says:

    Personally, I think ANCHORMAN 2 and ZOOLANDER 2 would probably both open huge, given the pent-up demand of the die-hard home video rewatchers, and if they were good movies, they’d have definite legs. True, neither justify $100M budgets, but if the stars involved want them to happen so bad, why don’t they do a scale-upfront/all back-end deal like Phillips did for HANGOVER 1 and keep the below-the-line down? Apart from ANCHORMAN’s period decor and ZOOLANDER’s presumed international locations, neither has to be “big” to work.

  21. christian says:

    Nobody’s mentioned OCEAN’S 11, 12, 13. The most interesting sequels to me since Soderbergh is a master.

  22. jesse says:

    Christian, I agree that Soderbergh is a master, but the Ocean’s movies, while light and funny, probably tend to be thought of more as caper/heist/crime movies, even if they have a lot of laughs. They also performed like hybrid sequels in that grosses diminished, but never to the embarrassing cash-in levels. I do like them a lot, though.

    Oh, and you’re wrong about Harold & Kumar; Scott is right. The first movie is crass and not everything works, but the core of it is smart-dumb and offbeat; it’s a better Dude, Where My Car remake (by the same director!) than either Hangover. Whereas the second one is the kind of movie that the first one looked like from the trailers. Can you really not see the difference?

  23. LexG says:

    Ghosbusters II > Ghostbusters I.

    Bobby Brown, Vigo, the Ally McBeal Guy, SPIRIT YOU CAN HEAR IT SOME PEOPLE WON’T GO NEAR IT, Harris Yulin, all better than the original.

  24. christian says:

    I thought the only unique thing about the first H&KGTWC was the ethnicity of the leads. Then it devolves into battleshit (very subtle and brilliant!) and the usual shenanigans. I guess I don’t think that a Neil Patrick Harris cameo is so incredible (tho it was the funniest thing in the film). But sure, the second is worse than the first bad one. What do I know, I love SHAKES THE CLOWN.

  25. hcat says:

    By the Ally McBeal guy are referring to Peter “No I swear to God I was the male lead in Sophie’s Choice” MacNichol?

    He, Tom Hulce, and John Heard must have all had the same agent.

  26. Krillian says:

    I liked the approach of Gremlins 2, which was pretty much a parody of Gremlins.

  27. hcat says:

    I think Gremlins 2 was vastly underrated and superior to the original. Loved Prosky as the old vampire host “People watching tv at 3 in the morning aren’t afraid of monsters, they’re afraid of sobering up and finding work.”

    And I also want to join in on the fierce creatures love from earlier. Though I wouldn’t call it a sequel anymore than I would say that The Sting was a sequel to Butch and Sundance.

  28. Jacob N says:

    Not to nitpick, but The Hangover opened to $45 million, not $35 million. I remember it had to battle it out for #1 that weekend with Up, which did $43 million.

  29. LexG says:

    Ha, “Butch and Sundance: The Early Years.” Also I love the idea that when you can’t get Robert Redford for a second “Sting”… you get Mac Davis.

    This is going a little far afield from the box office discussion, but I’m always fascinated by the early days of sequels, when they didn’t quite have it down yet.

    Like when something would be called “Part 2” first in the title: “Part 2, Sounder.” Or “Part 2: Walking Tall.”

    And it always struck me as lazy when they’d call a sequel “More,” like “eh, MORE of this shit,” like “More American Graffiti,” or “Another Stakeout” or “Another 48 Hours.” Always sounded so cynical. But “Another Hangover” would have a nice ring to it, or “Part III: The Transformers.”

  30. cadavra says:

    WILD TARGET was one of my favorite movies of last year. Definitely worth checking out.

    How come no one’s mentioned the greatest comedy sequel of all: THE LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN! (Okay, so it didn’t gross $100 mill, but it did win a Rondo Award for Best Independent film.)

  31. David Poland says:

    Jesse… the problem with the numbers on Anchorman 2 is that the first film didn’t do much foreign. So it’s all about domestic.

    You tell me the math that works well for a funder.

    Is there any reason for an Anchorman 2 to cost more than $50 million to produce with all the name actors getting scale and backend? No.

    Did The Other Guys look like a $100m budget film?

    Does the math work at $50 million and a big chunk of gross kicking in after an agreed on breakeven number? Yeah.

    Or pick whatever gross you think it reasonable and work backwards… 55% return in rentals, $40m – $60m in advertising on top of production.

    I don’t know what the negotiation was. Maybe Ferrell and McKay offered the thing up with a tiny budget and a fair back end deal and someone at Paramount was just being an idiot. Very possible. Fiscal responsibility is not the only way that decisions evolve… obviously.

    I’m just saying, the math is not an undeniable win here, unless the project was an act of love by Ferrell and others, who did work for almost nothing on his current release.

  32. The Big Perm says:

    It is the case that the budgets for these comedies are insane. I think it was 80 MILLION for Step Brothers, in which 75% of it was shot in one location. The average episode of Community is more epic and cinematic than that movie (which don’t get me wrong, I liked).

  33. David Poland says:

    This is, consistently, how comedy stars die in this business. First they are part of surprise hits for little money. Then they start getting paid really, really well, but the movies are cheap. Then they get paid top dollar and others around them do too. And all of a sudden, you have $30 million comedies that cost $100 million to produce.

    Some survive it longer than others…

  34. jesse says:

    Well, I would say, OK, The Other Guys doesn’t look like a $100 million movie… but it is an action-comedy spoof, and they do have a bunch of stunts and chases and such. I can see why it was more expensive than your average Ferrell movie. And I think Step Brothers was more expensive also because they shot and shot and shot. So, again, no, it should not have cost that much, but at least some of the money was probably used for how they were making the movie. That crazy amount of shooting could be a problem they’d run into on Anchorman 2, moreso than the $100 million/Other Guys problem. It’s probably just my favoritism, but I’ll never shudder at $80 million for a McKay picture the way I will for most Sandler joints, because at least McKay has comedy-filmmaking chops, at least according to me. Sandler’s buddies rarely do.

    I’m just saying, Other Guys at $100 million seemed like a decent bet for Sony (better at 60 or 70, sure). Ergo, Anchorman 2 at, say, 80 would seem like a reasonable bet for Paramount. Moreso, I’d think, than 45 on some cheaper comedy that doesn’t have the built-in audience… but I guess not. It’s just too bad that the brand-name thing that can get all manner of shit produced doesn’t get to apply to a brand-name movie that might actually be great.

    Also curious about the DVD factor overseas: do U.S. movies not catch on the same way in other countries? (I’m not being snarky; I honestly have no idea.) Surely foreign wouldn’t outgross domestic… but at the same time, I’d be curious to hear what the DVD sales were like in other regions. Maybe not so great if it was kind of an also-ran American comedy that didn’t really hit. Just curious if there’s room for growth over there for someone like Ferrell without the non-comedy-stars trickery of The Other Guys (which, granted, use those non-comedy stars beautifully).

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon