People love to laugh at Segways, mall cops, and mustaches, and the box office receipts for 2009’s Paul Blart: Mall Cop offer more than $180 million worth of proof. This weekend, Kevin James jumps back into the line of fire in the descriptively titled Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, and although we applaud him for refusing to argue with success, we somehow doubt critics will be willing to give this movie the same amount of slack — and with that in mind, we went about assembling a list of some of the worst-reviewed Number Twos in cinematic history. Roll up your sleeves and hold your nose, because we’re droppin’ deuces Total Recall style!
Caddyshack is a comedy classic that virtually hums with the madcap energy thrown off by director Harold Ramis and his incredible cast, a marvelously motley bunch that included Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase. Naturally, the sequel brought back virtually no one who’d been involved the first time around, limiting the classic Caddyshack vibes to a supporting appearance from Chase and a new song from Kenny Loggins on the soundtrack. This might not have been such a bad thing if these crucial absences had been filled by the right people or a suitably funny storyline, but director Allan Arkush was presented with a cobbled-together script that virtually reprised the original and asked Jackie Mason to serve as a Dangerfield facsimile with Robert Stack as Knight’s proxy. Audiences saw through the flimsy carbon copy and so did critics; the result was, as Steven Rea wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer, “a sight not to behold.”
20th Century Fox had 190 million reasons for making a sequel to 2003’s Cheaper by the Dozen, but none of them had anything to do with unanswered questions or compelling plot lines left dangling in the story’s conclusion — as amply demonstrated throughout 2005’s Cheaper by the Dozen 2, which reunited much of the original cast (including Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt in the increasingly thankless roles of bumbling family patriarch and matriarch) in order to pit them against another comically outsized brood led by Eugene Levy and Carmen Electra. Audiences turned out again, but critics were unmoved. “Cheaper by the Dozen 2 is so incredibly bland and by the numbers it’s painful to watch,” seethed ComingSoon’s Joshua Starnes. “It’s just a collection of unfunny moments that are both uninteresting and annoying.”
Here is where we pause for a moment to consider the career trajectory of Cuba Gooding, Jr., whose Academy Award for Jerry Maguire was followed by appearances in a string of increasingly ill-advised duds that grew to include Snow Dogs, Boat Trip, and the Razzie-winning Radio — and reached its arguable nadir with 2007’s Daddy Day Camp. A sequel to 2003’s Eddie Murphy-led Daddy Day Care, only without Murphy or anyone else viewers might have remembered from that film, it was essentially an excuse to film 89 minutes of our beleaguered Oscar-winning hero mugging for the camera and/or getting whacked in the family jewels. “Never work with children or animals,” warned the BBC’s Jamie Russell. “Unless you’re a child or an animal, in which case, never work with Cuba Gooding, Jr.”
The original Highlander, starring Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery as members of an immortal race who travel around the world chopping each other’s heads off, offered the sort of delightfully preposterous sci-fi/fantasy fun that only comes from hiring a legendary Scottish actor to play a character named Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez. Cult status naturally followed, making 1991’s Highlander II: The Quickening something of a foregone conclusion; alas, the scatterbrained script — which begins with Lambert’s character promising his dying wife that he’ll fix a hole in the ozone layer and only gets weirder and more convoluted from there — made these Highlander hijinks all but impossible to enjoy. “Highlander 2: The Quickening is the most hilariously incomprehensible movie I’ve seen in many a long day,” wrote Roger Ebert, deeming it “a movie almost awesome in its badness.”
Eight years after Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko started its journey to cult classic status, the story continued with S. Darko — a sequel that Kelly publicly informed fans he had absolutely nothing to do with. Without his singular vision dreaming up new narrative twists and turns, things turned out about as well as one might expect; although Daveigh Chase returned to reprise her role as Samantha Darko, the movie around her had trace amounts of the form and little of the function that propelled the original to midnight movie glory. “I love Donnie Darko. It is ominous, funny, replete with … well-observed moments,” wrote Jordan Hoffman for UGO. “S. Darko is a callous attempt to cash in on its well-earned appreciation.”
The poster’s tagline promised “the next generation of mischief,” but Son of the Mask was really just another feeble attempt by a studio to cash in on a hit movie by filming a sequel without the involvement of the original star. Part of the same glum tradition as such afternoon basic cable schedule-fillers as Smokey and the Bandit Part III, Curse of the Pink Panther, and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, 2005’s Son of the Mask vainly attempts to wring madcap laughs out of a story involving a sad-sack cartoonist (Jamie Kennedy) who stumbles into possession of the same magical totem from The Mask and ends up siring a son who’s been gifted with the power of Loki. It’s all very silly without ever being funny — kind of like the notion that a sequel to The Mask would make money without Jim Carrey. “Sequels without their original stars are usually sent direct to video. Some deserve better,” observed Garth Franklin for Dark Horizons. “This isn’t one of those.”
It’s pretty much a given that the reviews for a sequel will be more unkind than those for its predecessor, but even in the context of the law of diminishing returns, Speed 2: Cruise Control is an appalling anomaly: its 3 percent Tomatometer stands in almost inverse opposition to the 93 percent that Speed earned in 1994. Of course, given that the original was a standalone story that did absolutely nothing to ask for a sequel (besides earning hundreds of millions of dollars), it stood to reason that critics and viewers would be less than excited by the prospect of another chapter — especially given that Speed star Keanu Reeves bowed out, leaving co-star Sandra Bullock to muddle her way through a thankless follow-up that put her and new male lead Jason Patric on a boat (instead of a bus) trying to foil madman Willem Dafoe (instead of Dennis Hopper). “Speed cost something like $30 million; this sequel cost four times as much,” pointed out the A.V. Club’s Stephen Thompson. “So why is it such a feeble, aimless piece of junk in comparison?”
There’s something almost noble about the way this belated and belabored follow-up to Saturday Night Fever came together — not only in the face of common sense and good taste, but well beyond the box-office run of the original and the shelf life of the musical trend that turned the soundtrack into such a sensation. All of which is to say that a Fever sequel in 1983 probably wouldn’t have been a big hit no matter what, but when you add into the equation Sylvester Stallone directing from a script he co-wrote, a storyline that does essentially nothing with main character Tony Manero (John Travolta), and a soundtrack album whose second side consists of songs written and/or recorded by Stallone’s brother Frank… well, you’ve got yourself one of the biggest, sweatiest dancefloor duds of the decade. “It all amounts,” wrote TV Guide’s Movie Guide, “to an embarrassing show of unrestrained, Hollywood-style egomania.”
How do you go from winning seven Academy Awards and racking up nearly $160 million (in 1973!) to getting universally dumped on by critics and eking out less than $7 million with your follow-up? Well, you can start by taking 10 years between movies, ditching the original’s stars, and basing the sequel on a script that — while written by the fellow responsible for the first installment — mistakes intricate wit for thick exposition and club-footed twists. Case in point: The Sting II, which attempted to recapture the magic of The Sting by subbing in Jackie Gleason and Mac Davis for Robert Redford and Paul Newman. That’s probably all anyone needs to say about this limp retread, but let us close by quoting a few words of backhanded praise from Radio Times’ Tom Hutchinson, who wrote, “Oliver Reed and Karl Malden are welcome presences, and Teri Garr is the winner on all feminine counts, but this isn’t enough to save it.”
Jon Voight is a very famous, highly respected actor, but he also has bills to pay, which may explain how he ended up alongside Scott Baio and Vanessa Angel playing second fiddle to a diaper-clad quartet in Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2. Then again, if you take Voight at his word, he chose the project because “When you look around the world, everybody’s really in a fearful state in some way, and kids are getting that, they’re getting that fear, and they need to be given a kind of empowerment in some sense” — but no, you know what? We prefer the “bills to pay” explanation. Either way, this alleged action comedy about an evil media mogul who’s out to kidnap four freakishly smart toddlers has gone down as one of the more shockingly awful stinkers to seep out of Hollywood in recent memory — as well as, sadly, the final effort from Porky’s director Bob Clark. “The first Baby Geniuses, released in 1999, was one of the most inane, humorless, ill-conceived, poorly acted comedies of the year,” wrote Jean Oppenheimer for the New Times. “As difficult as it is to imagine, the sequel is even worse.”
Finally, here’s a clip from one of the most infamous part twos of all time:
This week on DVD, Liam Neeson (you know, the veteran Irish actor who your grandmother thinks looks nice) opens a can of whoop ass on unsuspecting kidnappers, much to our delight (Taken), while Michael Sheen (you know, the esteemed Welsh star of such Oscar contenders as The Queen and Frost/Nixon) plays a medieval werewolf in love in a fantasy-action prequel (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans). Elsewhere, Richard Kelly is chuckling to himself as an unofficial sequel to his cult hit Donnie Darko hits shelves (S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale), A-listers visit the depths of Direct-To-DVD Land, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles squeeze a few bucks from our pocketbooks, and Trekkies get a cornucopia of new nerdy delights.
Liam Neeson WANTS HIS DAUGHTER BACK in Taken, this week’s gloriously unapologetic exploitation thriller about a former CIA agent whose daughter (LOST‘s Maggie Grace) is kidnapped by slave traders while on holiday following U2’s world tour. Never mind the strangely coincidental plot points (these thugs definitely crossed the wrong dad), Taken delivers one of the most gleefully violent, guilty pleasure viewing experiences of the year. Who doesn’t want to see the 56-year-old former Darkman breaking necks, Jason Bourne-style? Watch an exclusive making-of video below.
Next: We’re likin’ Michael Sheen in Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans
In the third installment of the uber-slick Underworld series, we go back — way back — to the very beginnings of the bitter blood feud between Lycans and vampires through which Kate Beckinsale‘s black leather-clad Selene blasts her way in Underworld and Underworld: Evolution. And like all good vampire vs. werewolf stories (Twilight, anyone?), it all started with a love story. The ever-versatile Michael Sheen reprises his role as Lucien, a werewolf who leads his people in a slave rebellion against a class of vampire masters led by Viktor (Bill Nighy); when Lucian falls in love with Viktor’s daughter, Sonja (Beckinsale doppelganger Rhona Mitra)… well, we all know it can’t end well. A filmmaker commentary and featurettes highlight the DVD, with additional materials and a digital copy available on Blu-ray.
Next: S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale
If you thought Richard Kelly‘s cult hit Donnie Darko had its fair shake of “WTF?” moments, just try and wrap your mind around director Chris Fisher‘s direct-to-video sequel, S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale. Made without the involvement of Kelly himself, S. Darko follows Donnie’s younger sister, Samantha (played again by Daveigh Chase), who has left behind her Sparkle Motion days, become disconnected from her family, and is on a road trip with pal Corey (Step Up 2‘s Briana Evigan). Stranded in Utah, the girls endure dreamlike encounters with a bunch of locals, including the apparently disturbed “Iraq Jack” (One Tree Hill‘s James Lafferty) and a nerdy love interest (Twilight‘s Jackson Rathbone). Critics say, however, that Fisher’s sequel borrows too heavily from its predecessor and plays like feature film fan fiction, so we only recommend it for the most fervent Darko fans.
Next: Galaxy Quest: Deluxe Edition
By Grabthar’s hammer, Galaxy Quest hits shelves this week in a Deluxe Edition! The re-issue arrives just in time to remind Trekkies just how lovingly the parody addressed the nature of Star Trek fandom. Tim Allen plays the Shatner-esque Jason Nesmith, a washed-up actor still basking in the glow of his popular star vehicle, Galaxy Quest, when a band of dorky real aliens (led by the awesomely rubber-faced Enrico Colantoni) enlist him to save their planet. Pick up the Deluxe Edition for great extras, like Sigourney Weaver‘s backstage rap (featuring Sam Rockwell on the beat box) and a Thermian audio track. And remember: Never give up, never surrender!
Next: Ashton Kutcher nabs a cougar in Personal Effects
Ashton Kutcher takes a break from Punking, Twittering, and making terrible romantic comedies with this direct-to-video clunker, in which he stars as a promising college wrestler whose career is cut short when his twin sister is killed. Grieving in his hometown while awaiting the perpetrator’s trial, he enters into a May-December romance with a widow from his therapy group (Michelle Pfeiffer), whose deaf son is dealing with his own seething rage. As you might expect, lives collide, tragedy looms, and few viewers will actually care. A single making-of feature is included.
Next: Jena Malone, Leelee Sobieski, and Chloe Sevigny are Lying
What a week for subpar, star-driven dramas! Keeping company with Ashton Kutcher and Michelle Pfeiffer in Direct-to-DVD Land are fellow A-listers Chloe Sevigny, Jena Malone, and Leelee Sobieski, who co-star in this micro-budgeted indie drama about spoiled Gen-X women getting to know each other in the countryside. Newbie director M. Blash turned critics off with this overly pretentious film about, ironically, pretentious rich people — or the compulsive liars who pretend to be them, hint, hint — though the digitally-shot flick played the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes two years ago, for whatever that’s worth. The DVD also includes a commentary track with Blash, Sevigny, and Malone, and a featurette in which Blash is interviewed by filmmaker Todd Haynes.
Next: The Grudge 3: Even Grudgier
As if the Grudge franchise could ever end, a third film in the series lands on shelves this week. The direct-to-video Grudge 3 picks up where The Grudge 2 left off, as sole survivor Jake (Matthew Knight) conveniently passes on Kayako’s curse to a whole new group of unsuspecting victims. Inevitably, tragedy befalls those who cross paths with the Japanese ghost lady and her creepy little ghost boy, including Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Troi), Shawnee Smith (on loan from the Saw franchise), and, frankly, us viewers; director Toby Wilkins, whose recent horror flick Splinter earned a 71% Tomatometer, is unlikely to repeat freshness with this rote (and R-rated) Grudge extension.
Next: Heroes in a half shell – Turtle Power!
The long-running animated adventures of Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, and Leonardo (collectively known as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, naturally) kept children of the late ’80s and ’90s riveted — and buying action figures, comics, and other merchandise — for ten seasons; IGN named it the 55th best animated TV show of all time last winter. For those of us who played TMNT on the playgrounds (yours truly was always stuck as April O’Neil — lame), this week’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Season 7 is a must-have item to add to your “I Love the ’90s” DVD collection. All 27 episodes of Season 7 will be released this week in collectible editions, though there is one huge, disappointing drawback: you have to buy all four “slices” (AKA releases, sold separately) in order to own the complete collection.
Next: Nerd out with Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture Collection Blu-ray
Did you love J.J. Abrams‘ Certified Fresh Star Trek reboot, but not as much as you love the first six original feature films? Are you dying to see what happens when William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and host Whoopi Goldberg get together in a room to dish their favorite Trek memories? And finally, are you willing to shelling out $79.99 (Amazon’s special price) to own yet another super special collector’s bonus edition of Trek materials, even though you probably already own the films individually? Then, Trekkers, the new Star Trek: The Motion Picture Collection on Blu-ray is for you. In addition to 12 hours of previously released bonus footage, the collection adds over two hours of new materials and Blu-ray exclusive interactive features (test your Trek knowledge against other superfans!) and more importantly, all six films have been digitally remastered. What are you waiting for, ensign? Beam up immediately!
Until next week, happy renting!
Are you in the L.A. area and dying to meet your favorite masters of horror, science fiction, film, and television? Then the L.A. Convention Center is where you’ll want to be this weekend (April 17-20) for the 24th annual Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors — otherwise known as Fango Con — to preview the latest indie and studio horror flicks, see legendary casts reunite, and meet filmmakers like Sam Raimi, Ron Perlman, Tobe Hooper, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Jordan Ladd, and Sybil Danning. See how you can attend and get the full line-up (which , ahem, includes a live performance by Corey Haim) below.
Los Angeles is ground zero for hardcore horror and sci-fi fans this weekend, since the folks behind Fangoria’s 24th Weekend of Horrors have pulled together some of the biggest (and most legendary) names to grace the genre.
Festivities kick off today (Friday) at 2pm with previews of upcoming films, including the Donnie Darko “sequel” S. Darko, before Sam Raimi and Justin Long take the stage to introduce their May thriller, Drag Me To Hell (pictured above). Fans of classic exploitation cinema will get a real treat when the Godfather of Gore himself, Herschell Gordon Lewis (Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs, The Wizard of Gore) arrives to show footage of his latest film and sign autographs. (The man is 82 years old, for goodness sake!) A “Shock ‘n Roll Fashion Show” caps the night, with a special performance by Lost Boys singer G Tom Mac featuring Corey Haim.
Saturday’s lineup includes more previews (Night of the Demons, Fading of the Cries featuring Thomas Ian Nicholas, Laid to Rest featuring Sarah Connor Chronicles‘ Thomas Dekker, and The Mutant Chronicles featuring Ron Perlman, pictured above) and a few highly anticipated events. For giallo fans, the Masters of Italian Horror panel will be a must-see, as it brings together Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust), Lamberto Bava (Demons), and more to discuss the recently repopularized genre. Clive Barker fans will be treated to a Hellraiser cast reunion, a horror-writing seminar given by Barker himself, and a preview of the upcoming film adaptation of Barker’s Book of Blood.
(If you’re undead-inclined, join Fango Con’s Zombie Walk on Saturday and help them limp and stagger their way towards breaking the world record. “No eating of REAL brains or body parts permitted.” And of course, come in costume to take a stab at the $1000 cash prize.)
Sunday is highlighted by cast and crew reunions for the original Last House on the Left, Darren Bousman‘s recent Repo! The Genetic Opera (pictured above), and the first two Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies. Directors Patrick Lussier (My Bloody Valentine 3D), Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist), and Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman will give lectures and sign autographs, along with former WWF wrestler-turned-actor Roddy Piper. Lastly, be sure to check out the Horror on the Web Panel, in which your favorite writers from Fangoria, Dread Central, Icons of Fright, Arrow in the Head, and FearNet will be on hand.
For more detailed information, visit the official Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors website.