Call me a prophet if you like, but seven days ago in this very space I foretold of a future littered by sequels and threequels. And lo, just days after I made that pronouncement a tentative deal to make The Hangover Part 3 was announced.
Now before you start calling me for stock market tips or to predict whether or not bird flu will mutate again this summer keep in mind that it didn’t take ESP or a special connection to the movie gods to predict The Hangover’s tsunami sized box office would begat a sequel. And while the prospect of a third movie in that series is about as welcome as a plague of locusts at least my pronouncement didn’t have people selling their homes and moving underground (I’m looking at you Harold Camping). No, instead, the news should have moviegoers—at least those silly buggers who bought tickets to the film—bowing their heads in shame.
Why? Because their dollars made the threequel possible. Want to know how to stop the cycle of abuse and prevent sequels from clogging up your local multi-plex? Use your buying power to demand better movies. Want to know how? Read these easy-to-follow rules for sequel avoidance:
1. Generally speaking, shun movies with numbers in the titles. This sounds straightforward, but movies like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Three Days of the Condor, 8½ and The Seven Samurai muddy the waters.
By all means go see or rent those, but when choosing a movie beware of titles containing colons (Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace), the word “part” (Friday the 13th Part 3: 3D), unless of course it’s The Godfather Part II, a subtitle like “This Time It’s Personal” (Sister Act: Back in the Habit), roman numerals (Superman IV: The Quest For Peace) or any combination of the above (Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan).
Other trouble spots include titles containing the words “Beginning” (Psycho IV: The Beginning), “Bride” (Bride of Chucky), “Return” (Return to the Blue Lagoon), “Vs.” (Gamera vs. Jiger), “Boogaloo” (Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo) or “Revenge” (Jaws: The Revenge).
2. Worse than numbered sequels are movies which substitute a homophonous word for the number (Look Who’s Talking Too, Teen Wolf Too).
3. Avoid movies that recycle ideas while simply changing the tense of the movie title. Examples? What was funny in Analyze This became less so in Analyze That and there is a reason I Still Know What You Did Last Summer sits at a 7% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
4. And finally, as a matter of principle, steer clear of any movie in which Eddie Murphy wears a fat suit.
Of course I’m joking (except about Eddie Murphy). You can go see whatever you want, but keep in mind when we support bad movies the joke is on us. It feeds the notion that audiences are as creatively bankrupt as the studios. Not so. I think if you are given a steady diet of dog food, pretty soon you get a taste for Alpo, but if occasionally you have something better soon enough you’ll crave foie gras. Sequels are the dog food of the movie industry. Don’t let them force feed you.
This weekend for instance sees Beginners, Midnight in Paris and (if you’re in Canada) Good Neighbors in theaters. All good movies with great reviews and not a sequel among them. What are you waiting for? Do yourself a favor, have some foie gras with your popcorn.