By Gabe Toro | The Playlist July 11, 2013 at 4:10PM
Imagine if the studio announced they were putting the pieces together on “Anchorman 2,” but it was centered around a completely unrelated news team at the same Channel Four as the first picture. That’s essentially what happened when they opted to bring none of the gang back for “Caddyshack II,” instead figuring that director Allan Arkush (“Rock ’n’ Roll High School”) could make hay out of a cast that included Jackie Mason, Dan Aykroyd and Randy Quaid, figuring the golf-related jokes would carry the audience’s interest. The slobs vs. snobs parallels are still present, as “Caddyshack II” carries the feeling of a film that went through many different itinerations, with Mason ostensibly filling in for a once-thought-to-be-returning Rodney Dangerfield. The story carries on as such, with a war being fought to get the wealthy average Joe played by Mason into a membership slot, a scenario so dull they needed to bring back the gopher from the first film and actually allowing him to talk in order to fill screen time. While Chevy Chase is the single cast member that returns from the original, it’s telling that the lawless troublemaker of the first film is now the majority owner of the clubhouse: the geeks have inherited the penthouse, and no one is really minding the door. Famously, Chase was open about regretting his return trip to the ‘shack; considering Chase’s many dubious career choices, that’s saying something.
The best (read: worst) way to continue a story inorganically is to roll back all the character growth that occurred in part one. It’s why the end of “Arthur” seemed to suggest the titular drunk was turning over a new leaf and attempting to build a new life, but the sequel begins years later with no one worried he’s fallen back into drinking. Dudley Moore fits this role like a shoe, which is why it’s depressing to see him roll around and drawl through the part as he and his new wife (Liza Minelli) prepare to have a child. Seeking revenge, however, is Susan, the spurned lover of the first film (recast as Cynthia Sikes), and with her father, they scheme to wrangle Arthur’s inheritance from him. Our title character is now implausibly rendered homeless just as he’s attempting to prove to the adoption agency that he and his wife are a suitable couple. It’s a whole lot of rings to jump through in order to provide this film with a softer touch than the first film, a gesture that seems in-line with society’s growing worry about alcoholism as a disease, and not the charming attribute from the first film. By the time the ghost of his old valet Hobson (Sir John Gielgud) appears to help get Arthur over his troubles, the film is very visibly running on fumes in an attempt to reach a suitable runtime.
There’s a dulling inevitability to success of a contemporary film, in that the formula is about to resurface a few more times, and if the first film isn’t any good, they’ll be content with success and port the formula over for part two. Such is the case from most bottom-feeding studio comedies of this period, which is how “Meet The Fockers” somehow, for a brief time, became the highest grossing live action comedy in history. Chew on that for a moment. The sequel finds uptight patriarch Robert De Niro meeting the Focker folks, played by a free-loving Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand in performances that redefine shtick. What’s startling about “Meet The Fockers” is about how unadventurous it is, with Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) constantly finding humiliation from the interactions of daffy liberal Hoffman and ramrod-straight De Niro (not like there’s a real political divide of any type dividing these characters). In the seventies, if you said there would be a movie coming in thirty years starring Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman, we’d think it was a slow burn must-see character piece. Once bright writer-director Tim Blake Nelson shows up in the final act in his day job as backwards yokel for big studio films, it’s clear this is as far from that hypothetical movie as you could get.
“Get this… they get hung over again!” After the absurd success of the first film, it only makes sense that director Todd Phillips essentially walked into the Warner Bros. offices, shrugged, and presented an outline that would essentially mimic nearly every plot point from the first film. It’s an act of unusual, borderline amusing self-sabotage, and it would almost count as transgressive had it not worked so well, with the film outgrossing its predecessor. This time around, the Wolf Pack is in Bangkok for a wedding, only for childlike Alan (Zack Galifianakis) to drug them all again in an attempt at prompting Ubuntu between the group. What follows is yet another prolonged search for poor, missing Doug (Justin Bartha) while the film keeps hinting at a darker, more dangerous film that never manifests. By the time Phillips got to the nearly jokeless “The Hangover Part III” the revelation was that Phillips never cared for these characters in the first place, and the many motifs and characters inexplicably returning for this relocated second film suggest a director with little regard for his bankrollers or his audience. It’s too bad, because Phillips here is wasting a great trio of comedic performers, allowing them to go through the motions one more time for the sake of a paycheck, with nary an acting challenge in sight. Their pockets certainly got fatter, however, and that’s likely the lasting image anyone has of this sequel.
Jim Carrey seemed to figure out the score after “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls,” bowing out of sequels to his most popular fare. The end result was only proof of his stardom: prequel “Dumb And Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd” was quickly forgotten, while “Evan Almighty” was a tremendous financial sinkhole. But eleven years after “The Mask,” New Line Cinema got back on the horse with the 'Mask' mythology, crafting an unusually unpleasant, remarkably bizarre, ultimately artless endeavor. While the first film notably softened the original comic books’ madcap gruesome violence, “Son Of The Mask” goes even farther, grounding the story in family film territory with the tale of a mild-mannered cartoonist who gains possession of the mask, but must keep it out of the hands of flamboyant God of Mischief Loki (Alan Cumming). Non-entity Jamie Kennedy was such an underwhelming replacement for Carrey that they purposely kept the image of him in the mask out of ads, instead emphasizing sequences where the baby and family dog wear the mask and become horrifically-animated CGI monstrosities. “Son Of The Mask” piles through Tex Avery homages like a runaway train as Kennedy and Cumming attempt to out-mug each other in an effects tornado that reaches Dadaist levels of incoherence. Kennedy would later be so consumed with the negative reactions to the film (of which he is far from the worst element) that he would devote an entire portion of his documentary “Heckler” to insulting critics of the picture to their face, a silly tactic that nonetheless is likely the lasting legacy of this overbudgeted disaster.