If popcorn cinema in 2013 has been defined by one thing, it’s been “Sharknado.” But if cinema in 2013 has been defined by two things, it’s “Sharknado” and… a glut of unnecessary and unwanted sequels. Think about it: “A Good Day to Die Hard,” “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” “RED 2,” “Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters” “Despicable Me 2,” “Kick-Ass 2,” “Planes,” “The Smurfs 2,” “Grown Ups 2.” These aren’t just movies that are creatively unnecessary, they are movies that it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting (though in the Sandler movie’s case people bizarrely did actually show up, to humanity’s shame). Even “Monsters University,” arguably the year’s best sequel/prequel/spin-off, wasn’t one that seemed that creatively in demand—it was better than expected, but hardly essential. This week sees yet another sequel few were clamoring to hit theaters: “Riddick,” the third movie in the series started by 2000’s “Pitch Black” and continued with 2004’s “The Chronicles of Riddick” (you can read our review here). And it got us thinking about other egregious examples through the years.
A couple of qualifiers: one, there are no direct-to-DVD releases here, so that means “Road House 2: Last Call,” “Another Midnight Run,” “Christmas Vacation 2: Uncle Eddie’s Island Adventure,” “Cinderella III: A Twist in Time” and “Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia” are all disqualified (yes, those are all real movies). Also, tv movies are discounted, so sorry, “The Birds II: Lands End,” “Splash Too,” “Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby” and “Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House.” Maybe, just maybe, we’ll have an unnecessary sequel to our unnecessary sequel piece and talk about some of these movies; there has yet to be a truly great analysis written about “Darkman III: Die, Darkman, Die” and we think we’re up to the challenge. But enough about what’s not on the list, here’s what is…
“Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid” (2004)
Wait, What? Yes, “Anaconda,” the marginally enjoyable creature feature that starred a before-her-prime Jennifer Lopez and an after-his-prime Jon Voight (also: Ice Cube) got a full-fledged theatrical sequel. The producers of this culturally insensitive mess adopted the “hey, if it’s a sequel we should just pluralize the title” angle taken by James Cameron’s “Aliens” and the goofy subtitle approach taken by things like, oh, “Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams.” If only the movie was as pleasurably nonsensical as the title (it’s not). Directed by Dwight H. Little, a kind of Orson Welles of unnecessary sequels (having also directed “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” and “Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home”), ‘Anacondas’ is completely free of even the most bargain-basement charms, with a plot that’s cobbled together from a dozen other movies (including everything from “The African Queen” to “Deep Blue Sea”) and performances so wooden and self-serious that it makes the literally winky performance by Voight in the first movie seem like a perfectly calibrated feat of refined subtlety. The plot involves a crew of ragtag scientists and roughnecks who travel deep into the jungle to retrieve the titular flower, thought to have unheard-of medicinal properties. Guess what else the orchids do, though? Make really big fucking snakes (yes, this is the “explanation” for the first movie’s giant reptile). Maybe the “Sharknado”-obsessed cultural climate would be kinder to ‘Anacondas’ than audiences were in 2004, but it’s tough thinking anyone would love such a boring, gloomy, Tara Reid-free affair. Possibly even more shocking than “Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid” itself is the fact that it spawned two additional direct-to-television sequels: “Anaconda 3: Offspring” (2008) and “Anacondas: Trail of Blood” (2009), both of which directed by a man named (I shit you not) Don E. FauntLeRoy.
Is It Worth Watching, Like, At All? No. Not at all. The teaser poster for the movie, featuring a swarming mass o’ snake, is way more effective and memorable than anything in the actual movie.
“More American Graffiti” (1979)
Wait, What? The tagline for the first “American Graffiti,” George Lucas’ unexpected, pre-“Star Wars” smash about young kids drag racing and carrying on, was “Where were you in ’62?” If you were to ask someone, “Where were you in ’79?” The answer would undoubtedly be: Not watching “More American Graffiti.” Released after Lucas’ success with “Star Wars” (this was in between the first film and “Empire Strikes Back”), the movie is sour from the start, with a Vietnam-set sequence set to Martha and the Vandellas’ “(Love is Like a) Heat Wave.” The sequence is shot like one of the racing sequences from the first film, with two helicopters speeding along a river. Whoever thought that the perfect way to recapture the loose, hangdog fun of the first movie was to set it against the atrocities of the Vietnam war was sorely mistaken and the filmmaking (it’s written and directed by bit player Bill L. Norton, with Lucas, by then running his own empire, relegated to producer) is just as horribly tone deaf, going as far as to recreate the boxy, television presentation of the war for added realism/horror. Because, you know, watching Charles Martin Smith bumble through entrenched combat is the height of hilarity. “More American Graffiti” is the anti-“Before Midnight,” where we revisit characters that we wish we were never, ever around again. Take, for instance, the aggressively sexist stuff that Ron Howard, who was so charming and lovable in the first movie, says to his now-wife Cindy Williams. At one point he assures her that, “You’re more than a mother, you’re a wife.” Immediately after he tells her she can’t go to work. Yeah: ick. If the first movie was about the power of nostalgia, this movie is about the dangers of it.
Is It Worth Watching, Like, At All? If you bought the special edition of “American Graffiti” DVD that has the sequel on the other side of the disc (yes, that’s what it’s been relegated to), then you might want to throw it on one night just to see how bad it really is. Also, the music is pretty good if you cover your eyes.
“Blues Brothers 2000” (1998)
Wait, What? Nothing screams “unnecessary sequel” like a prolonged period of time between installments. And yet the nearly 20-year gap in between “The Blues Brothers” and “Blues Brothers 2000” is arguably the least of the film’s worries. The movie is dedicated to three members of the original cast who died in between (notably one of the original Brothers, John Belushi) and feels like a film displaced in time, less edgy and contemporary than the original and way, way worse for wear. The plot, taking place immediately after Dan Aykroyd gets out of jail, involves everything from Russian gangsters to an adorable orphan, careening from one sequence and musical number to the next with little in terms of narrative or character arcs. The movie just kind of ambles along, not in the cool, jazzy, free-associative way that everyone hoped, but in the Jesus Christ is this ever going to end?? way. Director John Landis, who also helmed the original, has been outspoken in recent years about how much the studio monkeyed with the project, but he has to take at least part of the blame—for the slack pacing, for the ’70s-variety-show staging of the musical numbers, for the atrocious performances (John Goodman tries admirably to fill in for John Belushi but never quite pulls it off). Maybe most baffling is the subplot involving Joe Morton from “Speed” as the illegitimate son of the Cab Calloway character from the first movie, who regularly places phone calls to find out Dan Aykroyd’s whereabouts, until he finally joins the band for some reason. Just awful.
Is It Worth Watching, Like, At All? We say no, although Landis is adamant, even when bashing the movie, in saying how great the musical numbers are. The music might be great but the numbers themselves are just as clumsily staged as the rest of the movie. If you want to see Aretha Franklin perform “Respect” in a Mercedes dealership, though, this is the movie for you. We repeat: just awful.
“Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd” (2003) and “Son of The Mask” (2005)
Wait, What? We couldn’t include just one past-due, unnecessary Jim Carrey-free sequel to a Jim Carrey movie on our list, we had to include two (quite frankly “Evan Almighty” is lucky it squeaked by without inclusion). Even more baffling than the movies being made at all is the fact that they were made by the same studio: New Line Cinema (is it any wonder that it’s now a production shingle at Warner Bros?). ‘Dumb’ was originally developed for the “South Park” creative team of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, they wisely passed the buck along to “Mr. Show” principle Troy Miller, who for some reason decided to replace the original movie’s childlike goofiness with a mean-spirited insensitivity. The Jim Carrey/Jeff Daniels stand-ins (Derek Richardson and Eric Christian Olsen) do an admirable job of appropriating the stars’ mannerisms, but the plot barely registers (it involves the two dummies creating a “Special Needs Class of 1986”) and the magic is all but gone. The fact that The Farrelly Brothers are making a “real” sequel, with both original stars (this one is called “Dumb and Dumber To”) seems to be, at the very least, tempting fate. However one would-be franchise that will probably be left alone for a lot longer (until someone gets the idea to make a “gritty” reboot more akin to its splashy, hyper-violent Dark Horse Comics source material) is “Son of The Mask,” the wrongheaded sequel to the Jim Carrey comic book movie from more than a decade earlier. There is little connection to the first movie; Jamie Kennedy plays a wacky man-child but not the same wacky man-child essayed by Carrey in the first film. Kennedy doesn’t want to have a child, much to the chagrin of his girlfriend (Traylor Howard—who?), and when he comes in touch with the first movie’s magical wooden mask (retrieved by another adorable Jack Russell terrier), all hell breaks loose. As directed by once-promising animator-turned-director Lawrence Guterman, it is embellished with an endless array of visual effect-laden weirdness including but not limited to Bob Hoskins and Alan Cumming (proving that he’s never said no to anything) as Norse gods Odin and Loki, a gag where former Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein’s face is sliced off and Kennedy breaking a world record for the number of times the word “crap” is used in a single sentence. Like a lot of unnecessary sequels, it’s unclear who, exactly, “Son of the Mask” is meant for: those who favorably remember the Carrey comedy or young kids, who may appreciate the movie’s humor and visual aesthetic. When a rap number by Kennedy is the movie’s highlight you know things are seriously fucked up.
Is It Worth Watching, Like, At All? “Dumb and Dumberer” is an unmitigated disaster; you’re best left wondering how horrible it is instead of finding out for yourself. On the other hand, “Son of the Mask” is so much of a catastrophe that it kind of begs for at least one viewing; occasionally the visual effects overload turns the movie into a live action Tex Avery cartoon, oftentimes bordering on the hallucinogenic (try getting through that Halloween party sequence without at least smirking).
“Highlander II: The Quickening” (1991)
Wait, What? The tagline for the first “Highlander” (1986) was “There can be only one,” which makes the sequel entirely unnecessary right off the bat. The fact that it weirdly retconned virtually everything that was charming and easy to understand about the first movie, a beguiling fantasy film backed by, of all things, a Queen soundtrack, is just infuriating. How Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) could go from a swashbuckling immortal to a scientist in charge of an electromagnetic shield protecting earth from damaged done by depleted ozone layers is literally the least bizarre question “Highlander 2: The Quickening” poses. The magical race of immortals? Yeah well turns out they are aliens from the planet Zeist. And it turns out that you can summon dead Highlanders back by yelling really loudly, which is the excuse the filmmakers use to get Sean Connery back for this go-round (and yet he wouldn’t show up for “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull“). There’s also something called “The Prize,” which allows Highlanders to either grow old and die on Earth or return to Zeist to, presumably, luxuriate in the finest amenities Zeist has to offer—it’s a device that is, through clumsy exposition, inserted somehow into the narrative of the first film. (What is happening?) More troubling than the mythological mumbo-jumbo, though, is the sex scene between Lambert and Virginia Madsen, which can conservatively be described as “alleyway rape.” Don’t worry folks, at the end of the movie they embrace and shoot off into outer space together, presumably for more consensual rough stuff out in the cosmos. Director Russell Mulcahy, who also directed the original film, squawked loudly about his vision being compromised and years later released “The Renegade Cut” on DVD (note: if it’s officially sanctioned and released by the studio, it makes it a lot less “renegade”) in an attempt to clarify certain story beats and moments that he felt were poorly conveyed in the original film. Shockingly, this version is just as muddled and incomprehensible as the theatrical version (he revisited it a third time to add additional visual effects, no joke). “Highlander II: The Quickening” might achieve the rarified status of being both the most unnecessary sequel ever and the most infuriating. Also, please keep in mind that this was followed by two more theatrical ‘Highlander’ movies (“Highlander: The Final Dimension” and “Highlander: Endgame“), a television series, and a TV movie (“Highlander: The Source“). Never before has “there can be only one” meant so little.
Is It Worth Watching, Like, At All? Fuck no. Oh, sorry, maybe you didn’t hear that: fuck no.
“Speed 2: Cruise Control” (1997)
Wait, What? When “Speed” (1994) became an unexpected runaway success, all parties (including stars Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock and cinematographer-turned-director Jan de Bont) swore up and down that it was a one-off and a done deal; there would be no sequel. At least Keanu kept his word. While ideas were floated by original screenwriter Graham Yost that attempted to replicate the feeling of intensity and dread that the original captured, including a pitch that involved an airplane flying through the Andes mountains that would explode if it fell below a certain altitude, de Bont insisted on the cruise ship idea. While the director claims this idea as his own (not sure why: it’s awful), it was very similar to one of two parallel “Die Hard” sequels being developed by director John McTiernan and producer Mark Gordon (the other one ended up being “Die Hard with a Vengeance“). In fact, the entire finale with the cruise ship crashing into the island, which was largely cited as the one fun thing about “Speed 2: Cruise Control,” even if it’s so badly shot that it makes it seem as though anyone involved could literally stroll away from the terror? That was all McTiernan. ‘Speed 2’ suffers largely from the fact that cruise ships don’t go all that fast; they’re lumbering oceanic monoliths that just kind of hang out in water. What’s hilarious about the script, too, is that the filmmakers did nothing to change the male lead after Keanu Reeves left the project last minute: basically Jason Patric is playing the Keanu Reeves character from the first movie with few (if any) alterations. He’s another handsome, thrill-seeking cop who Sandra Bullock’s character falls in love with. This time they’re doing battle against Willem Dafoe, playing an irate computer technician who is unfairly fired from the cruise company. Also he’s sick and carries around leeches. While the movie admirably tries to capture the kind of low-rent luxury of cruise living, and de Bont manages to photograph a few sequences nicely, this is the very definition of an unnecessary sequel: a bloated, overly complicated bore that attempts to wrangle in elements of an entirely different genre (in this case the “Poseidon Adventure“-like disaster movie) to diminishing effect.
Is It Worth Watching, Like, At All? No. Not at all. We really can’t be any more clear than that. All of the things that were fun and zippy about the original are not at all apparent here. Don’t do it.
“I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” (1998)
Wait, What? Barely a year after “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (1997) was released, its fast-tracked sequel came out. Gone was first movie’s secret weapon, screenwriter Kevin Williamson, writer of “Scream” and creator of “Dawson’s Creek,” with the entire production feeling like a cheapo slasher movie sequel from the genre’s heyday, except without the throwaway charm and copious amounts of nudity. This time the ghostly, murderous fisherman is talking nubile young people on a tropical island (returning star Jennifer Love Hewitt, whose breasts were a focal point of the movie’s ad campaign, is notified of the fisherman’s presence during a karaoke sing-along of “I Will Survive,” when the words on the screen ominously change to “I know…”). The sequel’s cast is uncharacteristically strong, and includes a young, almost painfully adorable Jennifer Esposito as a hotel employee, genre legend Jeffrey Combs from “Re-Animator” and “The Frighteners” as the owner of the hotel, Jack Black in an uncredited role as a white Rastafarian drug dealer, and a young John Hawkes as Freddie Prinze Jr.‘s coworker and confidant (young Mr. Hawkes dies by having a hook shoved through his mouth). But, lads, the “I still know” gag at the end of the first film was just that: a gag, like Carrie’s hand coming out of the grave at the end of that film. It was not the basis of another movie, and should never have gotten this far. ‘I Still Know…’ is largely humorless and that glumness extends to the suspense set pieces, which have a joyless restlessness despite being captured with some style by original “Judge Dredd” director Danny Cannon. The fruitlessness of “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” is encapsulated by its final scare, which has the fisherman surviving and dragging Jennifer Love Hewitt and her spectacular breasts underneath a bed. Presumably he makes her into chum, but it couldn’t keep the franchise down, which was rebooted somehow with a 2006 direct-to-DVD sequel entitled (wait for it) “I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer.” Always and forever, baby.
Is It Worth Watching, Like, At All? While there’s absolutely no reason for “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” to exist, that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t have been worse. There are minor pleasures sprinkled throughout the film, most notably the aforementioned cast. But that’s by no means an endorsement to sit down and watch the movie; if you’re flipping through the channels and are wondering what movie Jeffrey Combs is in that requires him to have a flattop haircut and stand behind a desk—this is it!
“Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction” (2006)
Wait, What? It took almost 15 years and an international co-production that included money from the United States, England, Spain and Germany to get this ill-fated sequel off the ground. While big time directors like David Cronenberg and John McTiernan flirted with the project, it was ultimately directed by Michael Caton-Jones, with most of the action taking place in England for no other reason than last-minute tax incentives (seriously). Serial killer Catherine Tramell is back, and she is once again played by Sharon Stone, who still feels compelled to get naked all of the time despite the fact that she’s getting a bit old for this sort of thing—though her breasts do seem significantly younger than she. Tramell is once again suspected of murdering folks (following a riotously staged car chase at the beginning of the movie), so Scotland Yard appoints a psychiatrist (David Morrissey) to evaluate her, because apparently that’s how Scotland Yard deals with suspected serial killers. The relationship between Tramell and the psychiatrist obviously becomes sexual, but the tone has changed since the Verhoeven original. Gone is the first movie’s arch, sexually explicit take on Hitchcock, instead swapped out for something that’s more akin to a campy, late-night Skinemax flick, with atrociously awful dialogue like “Even Oedipus saw his mother coming” and hilariously unsexy moments like a scene where Stone wears an open kimono and walks around a hot tub, exposing her lady nest. There’s nothing thrilling or sexy or fun about “Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction.” It’s developed into a modest cult film, but you have a hard time understanding why. The first film inspired outrage and protests. Nobody mustered the energy to even know this was a movie, let alone be incensed by it.
Is It Worth Watching, Like, At All? There is a certain amount of I-can’t-believe-what-I’m-watching fun to be had with ‘Basic Instinct 2,’ especially if you’ve been ingesting libations, spirits or medicinal herbs. That being said, you could literally be watching almost anything else (bar ‘Speed 2‘) and be better off for it.
“Mannequin Two: On the Move” (1991)
Wait, What? 1987’s “Mannequin” was a cute romantic fantasy about a department store mannequin (Kim Cattrall) who is actually an Egyptian princess who comes to life when the store is closed, and the man (Andrew McCarthy) who falls in love with her. When the movie was over, the book was seemingly closed on the franchise… Or was it? A few years later a sequel was introduced that barely had anything to do with the first movie (even the Wikipedia page cites it as a “semi-sequel”), adding some further elaborate, wholly unnecessary mythological undertones to the “Mannequin” story (complete with a medieval times-set prologue and themes of reincarnation and everlasting life) and replacing virtually the entire cast. It’s a sequel that maintains the original’s name and one lone cast member—Meshach Taylor from “Designing Women” as the outrageously gay black guy (he’s even on the poster with a comic book-style speech bubble). Besides that, the entire movie is different and way, way worse, with the filmmakers somehow insisting that making it more complicated would somehow enrich the experience for those audience members who came to see the sequel to a movie about a mannequin that comes to life. So, yeah, something about a kind of cursed (or charmed) necklace that turns our leading lady into a mannequin (or back again)… the details are a little fuzzy at this point. There’s also road trip component—hence the ‘On the Move’ subtitle. About the only good thing you can say about the movie is that Kristy Swanson looks really cute (and, for what it’s worth, does a good job with a woefully underwritten role). A staple of mid-’90s cable channels, “Mannequin Two: On the Move” doesn’t even have nostalgia going for it—the movie might have flashbacks to the middle ages but watching the movie now and you can see that the early ’90s were a dark time indeed.
Is It Worth Watching, Like, At All? Not even for Swanson.
“Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2” (2000)
Wait, What? Imagine if the hugely successful “Paranormal Activity,” for its sequel, abandoned the found-footage conceit and instead decided on a painfully traditional narrative format, with only winky nods to the original film? Because that’s the direction they went in for this “Blair Witch Project” follow-up. What makes the decision even more bizarre is the fact that they hired Joe Berlinger, who up until that point had been known for his infinitely creepier and more affecting “Paradise Lost” documentaries about the West Memphis Three case. (This remains his sole narrative feature.) The creepy atmosphere and troubling psychology of the first film was also skirted, along with the original’s stylistic trappings, focusing on a group of young people who were inspired to find out the truth following the first film and all meeting an untimely end. The worst adjective you can use to describe this movie is “typical,” since the original felt so unique and fresh and new. The rawness and reality achieved by the first movie’s aesthetic is wholly undone here; everything feels manufactured and tired. Berlinger later claimed that the studio took the movie away from him in post-production, both re-editing footage and adding new material, although it’s hard to believe that there could have been that much of a difference between what he shot and what ended up in the final movie. (The movie was rushed into production following the surprise success of the first film and a more reasonable, measured approach to that success was probably in order.) Maybe that could be the third film: a group of intrepid young filmmakers go in search of the fabled original director’s cut of “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.” Now that we’d watch.
Is It Worth Watching, Like, At All? Negative on that one, Goose. It’s so bad that it becomes funny but then becomes bad again, and its most criminal sin is one of dullness and dramatic inertia. It fails to deliver on even the most bargain basement promises of the genre; the fact that it was attempting to be highbrow and arty is just absurd.
So what did we leave off the list that should have been included? If we could have tracked down a copy of “Beyond the Poseidon Adventure,” that probably would have made the cut; “The Rage: Carrie 2” and “The Fly II,” both painfully inessential horror follow-ups, very nearly made it, as did “Analyze That,” and “Meet the Fockers,” two supposed comedies that had us wishing for those cyanide capsules they supposedly give the astronauts in case anything goes wrong in space. There’s “The Sting II” and “The Godfather, Part III,” movies that squandered the prestige and Oscar-winning glitter of their predecessors. And chief among the sequels that were so bad they take some of the gloss off the original are those infernal “Matrix” follow-ups. “Staying Alive,” the unnecessary sequel to “Saturday Night Fever,” directed by Sylvester Stallone, would have been on the list but the soundtrack is too damn good. And of course, a special ring of hell is reserved for the “Star Wars” prequels, movies whose existence isn’t just unnecessary—it’s an affront. It’s an overflowing category, though. Tell us below which ones you’d have disappear from existence completely if you could.