Ladies and Gents, my esteemed colleague JL brought this link to my attention this week. And friends, when JL talks, I listen (and so should you). Apparently the Farrelly brothers, the directors and writers of the original Dumb and Dumber, are considering getting the gang back together for a sequel to possibly the greatest comedy of my lifetime. Just for the record, the Farrelly brothers did not write or direct the steaming pile of dog droppings known as Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd.
So this got me thinking, is this good news? What are the odds of a possible sequel being good? And even if it is good, is that good enough to chance tainting the original which was pure comedic genius? Lucky for you, these are the kind of things the Sports Dudes think about.
So basically, here was my train of thought. Contrary to popular belief, not all sequels are bad. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of them are, but some are actually as good or better than the original. So what makes a sequel successful? I put together a list of great movie sequels and terrible movie sequels and tried to connect the dots. Here’s the criteria I came up with:
Was the sequel planned before the first movie was even made? In other words, were the movies planned as a series? If so, it’s got a solid shot at being good.
If not, you’re probably going to need both of these:
An excellent and creative story
It’s a pretty iron clad set of guidelines. Seriously, put it to the test with any sequel. When I think of the best movie sequels, here are some that come to mind:
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Return of the King
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi
The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum
The Lord of the Rings sequels were brilliantly written, no coincidence considering they were written as a series.
What do these all have in common? All of these sequels were planned (and in some cases written) before the initial movie was even released. As such, the previous movie leaves an opening at the end for a sequel. The sequel was figured in when writing the first movie and therefore the stories flow together much better. When a sequel isn’t planned before the making of the initial movie, it makes it much harder to write a sequel (or should I say, a good sequel). The writer needs to first make up an elaborate story to undo the ending of the first movie. Then he or she needs to basically one up the story from the previous movie. I mean you can’t just continue the story/premise from the first movie. The novelty of something new is gone, so you better have a great new hook. That’s tough to do.
So let’s say the sequel wasn’t planned before the making of the initial movie. In that case, the probability that the sequel will be good decreases substantially. However, it is still possible to come out with a good movie. In order for that to happen, you need to keep the cast consistent. Consider for a moment the movie Lethal Weapon 2. It’s a pretty solid sequel and it wasn’t planned before the original Lethal Weapon. Now imagine that Mel Gibson didn’t play Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon 2. You think that movie would have been successful? No way.
But in the case of a Dumb and Dumber sequel, this gets even more complicated. They would certainly need to get Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, but there were so many other important characters in the initial movie that made it the success it was. Lauren Holly, who played Mary Swanson, was excellent and a pivotal part in the movie. So were Mike Starr and Karen Duffy who played Mentalino and Shay, the thugs who try to kill Harry and Lloyd. This isn’t even considering bit roles like Cam Neely as Sea Bass. So if the Farrelly brothers plan to push ahead with just Carrey and Daniels, they need to create a whole new set of brilliant supporting characters like the ones that existed in the original.
Ok, so let’s assume that the Farrelly’s are able to lure back Carrey and Daniels and produce a whole new set of excellent supporting characters. They still need a brilliant story. They can’t just drag the audience along with another 100 minutes of the same stuff from the first movie. They need a whole new hook and a bunch of new jokes and quotes to keep the audience locked in. Think about it, even if the movie is decent on its own, people will still walk out of the theater saying, “it wasn’t as good as the original.”
Casting Arnold as the protagonist in T2 was a brilliant act by James Cameron.
Let’s look at another example, Terminator 2: Judgement Day. James Cameron needed to get the movie out of its predecessor’s shadow. He made a great decision to re-cast Arnold Schwarzenegger as the protagonist. This was a brilliant idea, as audiences clearly loved Arnold. It totally broke the movie away from its predecessor and added a whole new wrinkle. He also introduced the T1000, the liquid metal terminator, which was another new wrinkle to the story that helped keep people interested and intrigued.
So basically, here’s the conclusion I came to. In order for this to even have a chance at being a solid movie, the Farrelly’s need the following:
-Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels on board.
-A brilliant new set of supporting characters and jokes/quotes for the audience to run with.
-A fantastic new story that can not only match the first movie, but take it to another level.
In that light, I would say that the odds of this being a decent movie are about 30%. However, the odds of it being “good”, in light of how much we all loved the original, I would put around 10% and that might be generous. With that said, quality comdies these days are severely lacking, so apotential Dumb and Dumber sequel with Carrey and Daniels could have a much higher chance of success than a lot of other probable duds. Sound off below.