The 8 Ball 6.10.14: Top 8 Comedy Sequels
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 06.10.2014
From Clerks 2 and Hot Shots! Part Deux to Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Christmas Vacation and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down the top 8 comedy sequels of all-time!
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, we will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!
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Top 8 Comedy Sequels
Welcome back to the 411 Movie Zone 8 Ball, ladies and gentlemen! Hope you had a good weekend and here's to a great week for you as well. This week 22 Jump Street has its bow in theaters, hoping to capture the magic and surprise success of the first film. I was very pleasantly surprised with the Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum-led big screen reboot to the story but they have a tall order ahead of them, as comedy sequels can be problematic. For every good redux we've had there have been ten to fifteen like Teen Wolf Too, The Hangover Part II (or III), Caddyshack II and so on. This week we're going to be optimistic and look at the best comedy sequels of all-time, in hopes that 22 Jump Street can join their honored company.
Caveat: My primary caveat is that I tried to keep myself to films that were pure comedies, or at least primarily comedy films. This means that action-comedies like Lethal Weapon 2 and Beverly Hills Cop 2 were discounted, as are horror comedies like Army of Darkness. Making a good comedy sequel is damn hard, and I wanted to recognize films that pulled it off without having another genre to rely on for the quality. I went back and forth on animated comedies because they tend to have an easier time, but ultimately decided to include them.
Just Missing The Cut
• Shrek 2 (2004)
• The Great Muppet Caper (1981)
• Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear (1991)
• American Pie 2 (2001)
• Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991)
#8: Monsters University (2013)
First on our list is one of two Pixar films to place. Pixar Studios may not be quite the critical juggernauts that they were in their heyday but they're still thoroughly capable of churning out great movies. Monsters University is a great example of that. Truth be told, the worst thing about this movie is simply that there was no burning need to see it made; it wasn't absolutely essential for us to know how Sully and Mike ended up together as best friends. But Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird and Dan Scanlon had an idea of how to make it work and they wrote a great script that took the world of Monsters, Inc and placed it within a college setting. Billy Crystal and John Goodman are right at the top of their game in reprising their lead roles and the introduction of new characters such as Roar Omega Roar president Johnny J. Worthington III, the terrifying Dean Abigail Hardscrabble and the various Oozma Kappa members make for a thoroughly entertaining ride. The film does exactly what a good comedy sequel should do in taking the characters and gags we know from the first film and invoking that same magic without just retreading the same material. The film helped show that Pixar hadn't lost their touch and provided a fitting continuation of the Monsters world.
#7: Clerks 2 (2006)
This may be a controversial choice, and that's okay. There are a lot of people who dislike Clerks II, in part because of the reverence that they hold for the original entry. And in truth this certainly is a different film than Clerks; it isn't as raw as the original but I really don't believe that people should have expected that to be the case. Kevin Smith was simply not the same filmmaker in 2006 that he was in 1994, and I don't mean that in a bad way. The film is very funny and yet it is actually quite a good story at the same time, revisiting the lead characters from the first film and seeing them make a progression from the stagnant lives that they were leading. There are several good moments of raunchy humor—-the donkey show bit is just classic, for example-—and those moments get paired with strong performances by Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson as Dante and Randall. Those two have a chemistry that just clicks right and they play off each other really well. Rosario Dawson fits in to the mix really well to boot as Becky, Dante's new love interest. It isn't a perfect film of course, but it is definitely a worthy end to the View Askwniverse.
#6: Addams Family Values (1993)
Addams Family Values is the film that I like to pretend was Raul Julia's last theatrical film as opposed to the deeply unfortunate Street Fighter. The first Addams Family got the formula for a creepy comedy like this just right, taking the story back to Charles Addams' original concepts and nailing all the beats while never going so dark as to overshadow the humor. The second one was a rare example of a comedy actually upping the ante successfully. Julia and Angelica Huston were brilliant here as the ghoulish patriarch and matriarch of the family, Christopher Lloyd was spot-on as Fester and Christina Ricci made herself a star with her portrayal as Wednesday. The scenes with Wednesday and Puggsley at summer camp are gloriously funny whether you're looking at the forced watching of Disney films as punishment or the big play meltdown complete with the implied burning of a wonderfully bitch Mercedes McNabb at the stake. In fact, one of the reasons this film worked so well is because it gave Wednesday more to do; the other big reason was Lloyd getting paired off with the inestimable Joan Cusack as psychotic black widow Debbie. Everything in this film works great; it's rare that you can insert a baby storyline into a film like this without it falling apart but this was just fine. It's just great stuff through and through, and it doesn't even feel dated somehow like many comedy films of its era.
#5: Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993)
Spoof films are a lost art in Hollywood; with the prevalence of trash like A Haunted House, the degenerated Scary Movie franchise and the Friedberg/Seltzer films this is an increasingly obvious truism. There was a time however when spoof films were things to look forward to and I can't think of a better example than the Hot Shots! franchise. I love Naked Gun 2 ½ and it made the honorable mentions, but it didn't top the original story. Hot Shots! Part Deux was the rare spoof that was actually better than the first. It takes the skewer to the Rambo films, which were begging to be parodied and yet had never been carried off quite right. Say what you want about Charlie Sheen and his train wreck attitude these days, but back in the early 1990s he really was #WINNING as he nailed the role of Topper Harley with the kind of deadpan delivery that you really need to make parody films work. It's harder to pull off than it looks. This is just a really funny parody film that hits all the right notes.
#4: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)
Speaking of spoof films, this one really takes the cake when it comes to sequels. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery wasn't a film that I had a lot of high expectations for when it was released in 1997 but Mike Meyers delivered a pretty spot-on parody of the James Bond franchise. Two years later we got the sequel and Meyers and director Jay Roach managed to do themselves one better. The story is the kind of gloriously loopy thing that was perfect in skewering the Bond franchise at the time, especially when you consider it was released in the same year as the execrable Die Another Day with its ice castle and solar-powered satellite nonsense. Heather Graham delivered one of her better performances as Felicity Shagwell; she had as much chemistry with Meyers as Elizabeth Hurley did, if not more. And the introduction of Verne Troyer as Mini-Me, while it may have gone bad by the time Goldmember came around, is hilarious here. I'm not as big on Goldmember as a lot of people are but this one I have a deep love for.
#3: Toy Story 3 (2010)
If Monsters University is a great example of Pixar's ability to tell a good sequel, Toy Story 3 is the absolute pinnacle. The original Toy Story is nothing less than an animation classic and there was a lot of trepidation when the studio announced plans for a sequel, because how could you possibly top that? In truth, I don't think they quite mastered it but Toy Story 2 is a great film. For the (thus far) final film in the franchise, John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton upped their game and provided a story that Michael Arndt turned into a fantastic film. The story has some frightening moments in it to be sure, but anyone thinking it is too scary must remember that they had Sid's maniacal tortured toys in the first film and that blew anything here out of the water. The voice acting is as great as ever from the returning cast and the new cast, from Ned Beatty to Michael Keaton, is just as good. This has many touching, poignant and funny moments and the prison escape story is just as good at appealing to adults as the fun visuals are to kids. The only critique I have toward this film is that the climax seems to go a little too over-the-top with the action, but that's the faintest of critiques for an otherwise amazing movie.
#2: Christmas Vacation (1989)
It's really, really hard not to love Christmas Vacation. National Lampoon hit gold with the original Vacation, a truly brilliant comedy that established landmark characters in the Griswold family on their trek to get to Wally World. Unfortunately European Vacation was a letdown, losing itself amidst the attempt to recreate the magic of the original. Thank heavens that they gave it one more go around, which allowed them to redeem the franchise. Christmas was a brilliant timeframe in which to set the film, as there are so many recognizable elements that people can relate to in regard to the holidays. John Hughes' script hits all the right comedy beats and yet doesn't ever lose track of the sweetness inherent in the best parts of the franchise. Chevy Chase is in top form as Clark, who (with all due respect to Fletch fans) is his greatest character. It doesn't hurt that this is also the best iteration of Audrey and Rusty in Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki, while Beverly D'Angelo delivers her always great work as Clark's loving and long-suffering wife Ellen. There isn't one poor performer in the entire cast, right down to Nicholas Guest and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the terrible yuppie neighbors who get theirs in the end. This is one of those holiday films I can watch every year and not get tired of, and it's a great sequel.
#1: A Shot in The Dark (1964)
Only the brilliance of Inspector Clouseau could keep the Griswolds from the top spot. Inspector Clouseau has been played by a few different actors over the years, but to put it quite simply, Peter Sellers IS the character. Alan Arkin, Roger Moore and Steve Martin, with all due respect to each, don't hold a candle to Seller's absolutely quintessential portrayal of the man. A Shot in the Dark was the first sequel to The Pink Panther and the one to really, truly nail it down the best. It is the only sequel on AFI's "100 Years...100 Laughs" list and for good reason; it's simply brilliant. Sellers shines in the lead role, making Clouseau one of the all-time great comedy characters. What's more, the success of the franchise can largely be credited to him; he was contracted to a sequel but didn't like the initial script so he appealed to the original film's director Blake Edwards to take over. Edwards rewrote the film and made it whip-smart, giving him all the material he needed to direct a true classic. When it comes to comedy sequels, A Shot in the Dark set a lofty bar that hasn't yet been equaled.
Disguise of the Episode
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And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.