[7 July 2010]
City Slickers, like Office Space and Men in Black, is one of those movies that is much better than its premise would lead you to expect. It’s not likely to change your life, but it’s filled with pleasantly surprising insights and moments of inspired character development. Unfortunately, City Slickers was followed by City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold, a limp and exasperating sequel. (Tellingly, City Slickers boasts a score of 88 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, while its sequel has earned a paltry 20 percent rating.)
Near the end of the first City Slickers movie, Bruno Kirby’s character suggests that the three friends follow their running-with-the-bulls and cattle drive adventures by hiring dog sleds and following the same route as Admiral Byrd, to which Billy Crystal’s Mitch offers a counter-suggestion of coffee and cake. After the disappointment of City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold, my friend Kit and I reflected that the only way one could do justice to City Slickers with a sequel would be to set it at a café or at Mitch’s house; the “plot” would concern the three friends sitting around and talking about their lives over cake and coffee.
Our take wouldn’t be merely a more satisfying sequel than City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold—it would be a film we would actually want to watch. (Were Bruno Kirby still with us, anyway.) While most moviegoers and critics and pop cultural commentators bemoan the glut of Hollywood sequels and remakes (and not without justification), City Slickers II: Coffee and Cake is just one of many unproduced sequels I wish we had the chance to see. Here are some others:
The Breakfast Club 2
Having been a teenage stoner in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I will never be able to regard The Breakfast Club with complete objectivity. That said, I am not as blinded by affection for it as many of its fans; Emilio Estevez’s stoned jock dance makes me cringe, and as I get older I tend to sympathize more with Principal Vernon than with any of the self-pitying, self-involved detention brats.
Indeed, my yearning for a Breakfast Club sequel doesn’t even stem from any lasting warmth for the movie, but rather from the weariness with which I endure Generation X’s continuous, blind celebration of all things ‘80s. My thinking is, were John Hughes still alive, and were someone to somehow persuade him to return from his self-imposed exile in order to produce a sequel to The Breakfast Club, the result might finally provoke some degree of introspection on the part of those aging preps, jocks, stoners and geeks who comprise The Breakfast Club’s original audience; if the sequel showed us Anthony Michael Hall’s Brian as a bankrupt dot-com burnout and Emilio Estevez’s Andy as an alcoholic used car salesman and Molly Ringwald’s Claire as a morbidly obese, Facebook-addicted nobody and Judd Nelson’s Bender as an abusive father, maybe my idiotic generation would finally get over itself.
(You’ll notice that I neglected to provide a fate for Ally Sheedy’s Allison. Fact is, I still have something of a lingering crush on that character, and so I choose to believe that things worked out alright for her. Maybe she moved out of her repressive hometown of Shermer, Illinois and… I don’t know… started writing a column about popular culture, or something.)
Superman Returns 2
If I find my generation annoying, I find my fellow geeks infuriating, not least because they are impossible to please. Case in point: Superman Returns. Superman nerds have a blind spot for 1978’s Superman, which retains some degree of quaint charm but which is largely an awkward film at best, and which concludes, let us not forget, with the lead character flying around the planet in order to reverse the flow of time. (Superman’s immediate sequel is even more celebrated, despite the fact that it is yet more nonsensical and ridiculous than the first film.)
Bryan Singer is one such nerd with blind love for Richard Donner’s decidedly flawed Superman, and yet when he produced a Superman film of his own which managed to be arresting and dark and credible despite its fawning dedication to the 1978 film, fans still complained. Looking back at Singer’s intriguing but stuttering X-Men, and then at his far superior X2: X-Men United, one is haunted by thoughts of what might have been had Singer been allowed to produce a sequel to Superman Returns. Instead, audiences will endure yet another franchise reboot.
I am not a fan of Joel Schumacher’s two Batman films. Hell, even Tim Burton’s entries don’t hold up, though I’ve always thought Batman Returns was underrated. Batman fans and movie audiences in general are far better off now that Batman’s cinematic fate is in the hands of Christopher Nolan. (I’ve read vague suggestions that, had Heath Ledger lived, the third installment of the current Batman film franchise would have concerned the trial of the Joker; if I had more details, that lost film would certainly earn a paragraph or two in this essay.)
All that said, I suggest that you revisit Schumacher’s Batman and Robin; it has not improved with age, but 13 years later, it’s so spectacularly terrible on every conceivable level that it unwittingly makes for a fascinating movie-watching experience; I watched it a few months ago for the first time since 1997, and I simply couldn’t turn away. It’s truly one of the most poorly written, poorly acted, overproduced, campy, aggressively homoerotic creative works of the 20th century; one is left to assume that another Schumacher-directed sequel would have played like Hairspray crossed with Passions, and I’d give a hundred bucks to see that movie.
Unbreakable 2 and Unbreakable 3
M. Night Shyamalan has clearly lost whatever cinematic mojo he once had, but Unbreakable, while imperfect, is nevertheless arguably Shyamalan’s most compelling film. Shyamalan has said that Unbreakable was envisioned as a trilogy, and while his recent output suggests that we are probably better off without Unbreakable 2 and Unbreakable 3, a part of me will always wonder what became of David Dunn and Elijah Price.
A poster for the Ninja Turtles that might have been but alas, never was
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2
In the category of Unfairly Maligned Geek Films, the Imagi Studios take on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise ranks second only to Superman Returns. TMNT was a completely CGI production, and while I considered that a mark against the movie before I managed to actually see it, the CGI proved to be a revelation; it liberated the storytellers to open up the action to a degree that even the greatest Jim Henson costumes could never accommodate. While the plot (the Turtles versus 13 mystical monsters and an immortal warrior and his immortal statue buddies) was not the high point of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, the movie still managed to be moody and funny and exciting. (It also featured not a single cameo from Vanilla Ice, automatically making TMNT the best Ninja Turtle movie since the 1990 original.) Alas, we will never see a sequel; Nickelodeon recently purchased the Ninja Turtles property, and Imagi Studios has gone bankrupt, and the current plan is to reboot the franchise with another live-action origin story.
Masters of the Universe 2
Dolph Lundgren starred as He-Man in 1987’s Masters of the Universe, which even then was a pretty mediocre movie, even by the generous standards of a ten-year-old He-Man fan. I cannot imagine how clumsy and dated and strange the Masters of the Universe movie would seem today. Still, after the credits roll, Frank Langella’s Skeletor rises from a pool of magical muck and says, “I’ll be back,” and 23 years later, I’m still waiting.