“Teen Wolf Too” (1987)
What could possibly go wrong? A rushed-out sequel, hitting just two years after the original, about a boy werewolf going to college and starring not the lead of the first film, Michael J Fox, but the brother of the girl who played Fox’s sister in his still-running and hugely popular sitcom “Family Ties,” —it just has "worldwide hit" written all over it, doesn’t it? But somehow, “Teen Wolf Too” failed to pull in audiences, which is hardly surprising given it’s a ploddingly dull rehash of a pretty terrible original, in which the only substitutions are a criminally young Jason Bateman instead of Fox, college instead of high school, and, major twist alert, boxing instead of basketball as the sport at which the central character’s lupine alter ego allows him to excel. There really is absolutely nothing good we can say about “Teen Wolf Too” as it dis-improves in every way on a now near-unwatchable first film, papering over the obvious cracks like being unable to get Fox, 1985’s biggest breakout star, to return by having Bateman play Todd Howard, the cousin of the Fox character from the first film. Brilliant! And we can hardly blame Fox—the script stank so much that only two of the original cast members returned for tiny roles, with two further roles, that of the coach and “wisecracking” best friend being recast because the sequel couldn't even attract the likes of uh, Jay Tarses and Jerry Levine. With every chance at dramatic tension or humor squandered and Bateman, contrary to what we know of him now, proving a remarkably charmless lead, there is nothing redeeming about “Teen Wolf Too” except maybe that it proves our point that there are films that succeed as franchises because their central concept is high enough to stretch to multiple installments, and there are those that do well because of some other quasi-mystical, unpredictable quality. Like coming out the month after “Back to the Future” had made the lead an instant, massive star, for example. Still ‘Too’ may have killed the franchise on the big screen, but what with all things teenaged and lycanthropic experiencing a post-”Twilight” resurgence, the story is now howling again, just as a TV show for MTV, which is cool because that way we get to ignore it.
“Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction” (2006)
Guilty admission: if we were forced to watch one of these films again at gunpoint, well, it’d probably be “Gremlins 2.” But if that option were gone, it might well be “Basic Instinct 2” the miles-after-the-fact sequel to Paul Verhoeven’s ludicrously amped-up 1992 erotic thriller. Not because it’s any good, we hasten to add, but because it’s got a certain, can’t tear-your-eyes-away fascination, and is good fodder for any of many drinking games. The cheapie knock-off feel of its obviously cut-price location change (it was filmed in London to take advantage of tax breaks) also seems to have led to some obviously B-level Brit casting—David Morrissey we love you but you’re no early ‘90s Michael Douglas; don’t worry, Hugh Dancy, you’ll be good in “Hannibal” in 7 years or so; David Thewlis, you continue to baffle us with your career choices; and Charlotte Rampling, what are you doing here? But the nexus of awkwardness here, of course, is Sharon Stone, who needs the kind of arch, unapologetic slickness that Verhoeven can bring in order to pull off the way OTT lethal vamp role, and doesn’t get it from Michael Caton-Jones. What she does get are lines like “Even Oedipus saw his mother coming” which sound more like “Carry On” dialogue than the devastating wit of a genius psychopath or whatever, and several deeply uncomfortable sex scenes with Morrissey who looks catatonic for most of the film. Stone subsequently professed interest in making her directorial debut with “Basic Instinct 3,” but ‘Risk Addiction’‘s clutch of Razzies and box-office bomb status (it made back just over half its budget) make that a prospect we wouldn’t hold our breath, or uncross our legs, waiting for.
“Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle” (2003)
The Hollywood star system has given us a lot: Garbo’s face, Gable’s swagger, Julia Roberts’ smile. But every now and then it exacts a terrible penalty for all the small joys it has allowed us, in the form of a film so cynically empty of every idea except to be a showcase for its pulchritudinous stars that the term “vanity project” scarcely seems to cover it. And so it was with the banquet of empty calories that was the 2003 sequel to 2000’s “Charlie’s Angels,” a film which was itself bad, but compared to its successor, looks like goddamn “Floating Weeds.” ‘Full Throttle,’ in fairness, does at least earn its subtitle: garishly shot, hyperkinetically edited (all wipe transitions and crash zooms) and written by what we can only assume was a five-year-old on a sugar high suffering from head trauma, it’s the film that, even more than his other crimes against cinema, allows Michael Bay to point to McG and say “hey I’m not as bad as this guy.” This time out the Angels (Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore) have to take down a Big Bad in the form of ex-Angel Demi “gonna prove I’m still hot if it kills me” Moore, but really it's just an excuse for them to wear clothes and go to places, occasionally indulging in banter that couldn’t be more stilted if they were actually reading it off a teleprompter, before they head to their trailers while their stand-ins do the stunt work for action scenes so aerodynamically unconvincing they’d make more sense on Mars. Noisy, brash and joyless, the only surprise ‘Full Throttle’ has in store is the sheer number of faces who turn up: Shia LaBeouf (before he was not-famous), Crispin Glover, Justin Theroux (whose accent is… something), Bernie Mac, Robert Patrick, Matt Le Blanc, Luke Wilson, John Cleese, Eric Bogosian, Robert Forster--even Bruce Willis shows up for a hearbeat-long uncredited cameo. Thank God it made less domestically than its $120m budget, meaning that a third go-round, at least with this cast and director, is all but dead, with even Diaz saying in 2011 that were it to happen it would probably be with a new threesome.
“The Fly II” (1989)
Potentially unpopular opinion alert: we don’t, or at least this writer doesn’t hate 1989’s sequel to the classic David Cronenberg horror “The Fly,” itself a remake of a 1958 film (which actually did spawn a trilogy!). In fact it rides high on a putative list of Films That Would Be Pretty Decent If They Weren’t Sold As Sequels To Something Brilliant (see also: “2010"). While never attaining anything near the inventive, chilly, existential terror of the Cronenberg version, the Frank Darabont co-scripted sequel, for which only one of the original cast, John Getz, returned (though Geena Davis was reportedly interested until she discovered her character was to be killed off in the first reel; the role was recast) does have its own thing going on, and special effects supervisor turned director Chris Walas (who did SFX for “The Fly”) does solid work even away from the impressive creature/transformation effects. Remembered now, if at all, for its pretty upsetting mutated dog sequences, the story follows Martin, the son of the Jeff Goldblum and Davis characters from the first film, who has inherited the genetic mutation from his father and has been raised in a loveless clinical environment from birth. Preternaturally bright, he also ages at an accelerated rate, falls for a girl (Daphne Zuniga) and eventually tries to find a way to bring down the evil corporation holding him prisoner from the inside. So yeah, it hasn’t got the resonance or eeriness of the original, but as a horror/adventure with some nicely gross SFX it does the job. And audiences seemed to feel the same, with “The Fly II” pulling in a respectable $40m all told, which was neither a disgrace nor a license to push the button on “The Fly III.” And so while far worse horror sequels have spawned very long franchises, perhaps because the first-to-second film drop-off in quality wasn’t quite so marked, “The Fly II” was the last outing for the family Brundle and their peculiar aberration.
The phenomenon of the franchise that stalls at no. 2 is of course by no means limited to these titles, which were selected largely on the basis of variety and what we could bear to write about in depth. Some others narrowly missed the cut: “Caddyshack II,” which we left off due to including another late-’80s Chevy Chase-starring comedy in “Fletch Lives,” is also similar in that it’s so vastly inferior to the widely beloved first film that seemingly no one could stomach the idea of a third. Then there’s “Conan The Destroyer” which we covered off in our Revisiting Summer 1984 feature (it comes in at number 27 of 35), as we also did with “Cannonball Run II” (which comes in second last. Enough said.) “Revenge of the Nerds 2” took the unexpected goofy pleasure of the first film and drained it of all charm; and “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life: Too Many Colons” managed to be even worse than the first, despite Angelina Jolie’s perfect casting.
“Babe 2: Pig in the City” was a darker, meaner George Miller-directed take that is rated by some of us, but was disliked by audiences looking for the same adorability factor as the first; “Grease 2” has about as much reason to exist as “Staying Alive”; “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights” is easily put in a corner by the original, and also bore so little relation to it that it might have done better if it was simply called something else; we covered “Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows,” “Blues Brothers 2000,” “Mannequin On the Move” “Son of The Mask” and “More American Graffiti” in last year’s feature on Unnecessary Sequels; “The Jewel Of The Nile” made everyone forget how much they'd enjoyed “Romancing the Stone”; while “Legally Blonde 2” and “Miss Congeniality 2” both diminished returns on decent prior vehicles for Reese Witherspoon and Sandra Bullock.
“Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” certainly did end the Bill & Ted franchise, though we unapologetically like the film; “A Christmas Story 2” is OH, WHY DID THEY EVEN BOTHER?; “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” is exactly everything we’d feared the first one would be and were so pleasantly surprised it wasn’t; “28 Weeks Later” is ok, but no one’s clamoring for “28 Months Later”; ”Lost Boys: The Tribe” was the way-late sequel that no one except its star wanted; “Analyze That,” well, what would they even call a third one? “Analyze The Other”? And the second “X-Files” film merely confirmed the impression that “X-Files” belongs on TV.
Finally, there’s that category of film which we’re even rather amazed got to installment 2, as in why on earth did anyone sequel-ize this? They include: way subpar “Chinatown” sequel “The Two Jakes”; the terrible execution of a terrible idea “S.Darko”; “The Sting II” which is a thing that exists in the world; “Return to the Blue Lagoon” with Milla Jovovich on Brooke Shields duty; and last but not least “American Psycho 2: All-American Girl” with Mila Kunis which, if you’re ever dared to watch it, just lose the dare already.
And that’s not even talking about the likes of “Deuce Bigalow” “Boondock Saints” and “Weekend at Bernie’s” each of which spawned a sequel that could scarcely surpass the original for horribleness, so we figured the less said about them the better. Still, there are a million more we know, so feel free to shout out your pick for a sequel that, for better or worse, killed, or merely maimed a franchise, in the comments below. -- with Rodrigo Perez