“Gremlins 2: The New Batch”/”Son Of The Blob”/”C.H.U.D. 2: Bud The Chud”
It’s rare that a sequel changes genre from the original film, but it appears to have happened thrice here. Joe Dante infused the first “Gremlins” with a number of laughs, but it was primarily a beware-of-night scarefest first, and the little beasts of the title were fearsome buggers. Not so in the sequel, which violates the fourth wall frequently in allowing the critters to invade an entire skyscraper, wrecking all sorts of Looney Tunes-inspired damage all over the place. The menace remained, as Dante is one of the few geniuses at balancing horror and comedy, but this was a much lighter affair that blindsided audiences expecting differently. The picture thrives with a number of inspired comic performances and effects work, though moments when the gremlins tear through the actual physical film don’t exactly show consistency with the little-monster-story of the first “Gremlins.” Meanwhile, the wacky Larry Hagman-directed (!) “Son Of The Blob” brings back the silly goop from the early Steve McQueen-starring vehicle in a film where an entire bumbling town of goofballs can’t help but fall face first into the slow-moving organic death-trap, quipping and joking all along the way. Finally, in “C.H.U.D. 2: Bud The Chud,” the politically-charged subterranean thrills of the first film give way to a wackier story where a single mutant cannibal wildly different than the beasts seen earlier (and played by Gerrit Graham?) forms a small army and par-tays, becoming buddy-buddy with a group of partyhound teens.
Because nothing is funnier than a Biblical flood! Overtures were made to Jim Carrey to reprise his role for a sequel to megahit “Bruce Almighty,” but when he turned down the opportunity, producers rushed to make a sequel that would in almost no way be recognized as a follow-up to the first film. “Bruce Almighty” did feature Steve Carell, who had since achieved leading man fame with “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” so the plan was to bring his minor newscaster back in a lead role. Now running for political office, Carell is struck by a bolt from God (Morgan Freeman), and told that only he can help rebuild civilization, building an ark to withstand a horrible flood that would wipe Washington DC off the planet. Somehow, no one blinked at the idea of an over-expensive ($200 million, reportedly) comedy in which millions of people died offscreen to prove a lead character’s visions were accurate. The film famously soft-pedaled this troubling conflict with jokes about Carell’s ever-increasing beard growth and the superstitions and disbelief of his family, turning the picture into more of a supposed “heartwarmer” than its predecessor. Somehow, Carell survived this flop, as it’s been nearly wiped off his resume, though it did turn director Tom Shadyac into retirement in reaction to the film’s questionable moral code, leading him to make a New Age documentary about spirituality.
Long after the passing of original “Blues Brother” John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd attempted to keep the flame alive in a way that grossly seemed like more of an opportunity to hawk product and merchandise than to honor his dead friend (see: “Ghostbusters 3”). What’s striking about this decade-too-late cash grab, which feels like even less of a film than its shaggy-dog original, is how absolutely strange the film seems. The gag of the Blues Brothers died as the characters became accepted into the cultural lexicon as legacy creations, earning respect and reverence where jokes should have been, and as a result, new Brother John Goodman seems hamstrung by the entire experiment to create something new and meaningful. While the earlier picture showcased an enjoyably ridiculous amount of car chases, here the guest stars overshadow anything else, and the film attempts to tie the story and (often lackluster) performances together through methods nonsensical and, at times, supernatural. When a late-reel evolution shows that co-star Joe Morton’s arc involved him understand and realizing his “blackness,” it’s clear that this was just a gumbo of ideas tossed together, and not an actual film: they should have just filmed a concert and moved on.
Most were already shoveling the dirt on Rob Schneider’s leading man career by the time the sequel to “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo” hit theaters to muted interest. It’s true the funnyman had exhausted most of his goodwill with a series of crude star vehicles that made David Spade look like Monsieur Hulot. 'European Gigolo' is in much the same vein for the most part, with Schneider’s unlikely lady-pleaser headed east to romance a different breed of woman. What most failed to notice, however, was Schneider and company turning this film into an unlikely “Dressed To Kill” homage, involving a murder mystery where Deuce becomes involved in the chase for a killer of male prostitutes, eventually getting implicated himself and leading to a plot involving Bigalow outwitting the cops as he plumbs the depths of an icky sex crime spree. 'European Gigolo' manages to outdo its predecessor with a maze of sexual deformities on the list of suspects, stooping fairly low in the process. But it is inspired that Schneider and director Mike Bigelow (no relation) took such a low-anticipation smut-fest and attempted to reveal a weirdly highbrow sensibility, even if the streak of homophobia shared by the film and its De Palma-directed predecessor remains off-putting and outdated, and it remains the only film that both references De Palma and features a woman with a penis for a nose.
Sort of a modified “Waiting For Godot,” the original “Weekend At Bernie’s” was a madcap caper involving two would-be businessmen who must pretend that their deceased cokehound boss is still alive, stringing along his corpse like it were a doll in order to prove to the dubious that they were his best friends and associates. There’s a dark morbidity to this premise, one that you’d think could be remade today as a Bret Easton Ellis-type commentary on consumption and capitalism. However, in the nineties, somehow the impulse was to sequelize the film in a way that made Bernie’s fate a comic misunderstanding for family audiences. The wacky, tacky sequel finds a convoluted way to get Bernie back into the story, as his body is abducted to lead to a large sum of money, and later resurrected by voodoo. Credit to actor Terry Kiser, who plays Bernie’s corpse with an unsung abandon, even in the most ridiculous circumstances. However, he’s only one guy, and most of 'Bernie’s 2' hangs on the shoulders of returning preppies Jonathan Silverman and Andrew McCarthy, both of whom saw this sequel as a possible ticket to the big time, and not a tremendously embarrassing punchline they erase from memory. If you were ever wondering, “how many jokes can you get out of a corpse?” then “Weekend At Bernie’s 2” just might be your life-saving Wikipedia.
What do you think? Do comedy sequels usually miss the mark by having to live to up the high standards of what came before? Any sequels you think worked or were even better than the original? Let us know below.