The 10 Most Unfathomable ‘Franchises’ in Film

[10 July 2012]

By Bill Gibron

PopMatters Contributing Editor

They’re not the franchises we look forward to. They’re not the latest from Christopher Nolan or the Marvel comic universe. Instead, they’re the flukes, the unfathomable continuing series that make no sense cinematically or artistically. The only reason they exist, aside from the desire by audiences to see what the latest installment has in store, is that all powerful predictor of success and support: money. Indeed, what makes any franchise a viable business model is the notion that name alone will guarantee good box office (or in the case of direct to video variables, continuing rentals and sell-throughs). And it’s not just on the home front. Many members of this corrupt collective get by because non-English speaking countries just can’t get enough of their action oriented/brightly colored creativity.

Still, you will notice a bit of a pattern here. Among the ten listings, half are oriented around the wee ones. Kids, it seems, are the primary cause of an unnecessary franchise. Just give them moving objects, brightly tinted caricatures, and just enough interest to keep their already lax attention span in check, and the results reap profits. Of the other five, three are horror an two cater to tweens—again, demographics that eat up almost everything put in front of them. While here are many more entries we could offer, we’ve chosen to avoid those based on other source material (sorry potential #1 Twilight) or with certain successes among their failures (aka the Burton/Schumacher Batman films). No, these are the 10 continuing legacies that should have been stopped before they could aesthetically procreate again, beginning with one of Full Moon’s most memorable:

 
#10: The Puppet Master Franchise (11 Films)


Without a doubt, the VCR changed the motion picture marketplace forever. Studios and offshoots soon learned that popularity could come in parts and still be considered a commercial triumph. Thus we have efforts like this—evil dolls tormenting victims in film after fetid film. Even the attempts at backstory and character reconfiguration couldn’t make these animate aggressors anything more than grade Z schlock. With the advent of CG, it’s amazing that more of these films aren’t out in the macabre mainstream. In the ‘90s they were a known quantity. Today, they’re a shoulder shrug.

 
#9: The Bring It On Franchise (5 Films)


Competitive cheerleading, usually set within a strangled urban/suburban backdrop has made this otherwise unnecessary franchise incredibly popular with the prepubescent teen set. Girls just can’t get enough of smart mouthed minorities coming into the all white realm of the popular gal clique and making mincemeat out of their so-called dance moves. Add in a lot of tween pop drivel and a last act contest meant to mimic redemption and you’ve got the Bieber set’s initiation into the world of passable peer pressure. Thanks to DVD, one imagines an endless string of knock-offs on the horizon.

 
#8: The Alvin and the Chipmunks Franchise (3 Films)


For kids in the ‘60s, Ross/Bagdasarian, Sr./Dave Seville’s sped up song stylings were The Simpsons. He was taking popular culture and in the guise of a trio of animated rodents, he turned every hit into “They’re Coming to Take Me Away”. Reinvented by his son to ‘sing’ to the current underage set, the new Chipmunks have Jason Lee and David Cross to cash paychecks with, as well as the occasional nod to their ‘80s zenith as a Saturday morning mainstay. While miles away from their ordinary origins, these new crooning critters continue to make bank, meaning someone will continue to make movies with them.

 
#7: The Madagascar Franchise (3 Films)


In one of two stunt casting corruptions of the always impressionable ankle biter demo, we have a group of overpaid actors and should know better stand-ups trading bad puns and ridiculous routines for the sake of anthropomorphized wildlife. With horny hippos, highly strung giraffes, and motormouthed zebras, it’s not hard to see why adults and kids love this law of diminishing comic returns. You know you’re in trouble when Chris Rock can’t conjure up a legitimate laugh, while celebrities like Jada Pinkett Smith and Ben Stiller seems present to merely take up cartoon space.

 
#6: The Ice Age Franchise (4 Films)


And here is our second installment of comedians trading their talent for a bit of filmic “F-You” money. Hey, everyone deserves a decent payday, but hasn’t David Schwimmer and Ray Romano earned more than enough cash from their forever in reruns TV work? At least Denis Leary deserves a place in permanent Comic-Con consideration. In fact, the latest installment (hitting theaters on 13 July 2012) seems bent on blending the series with another popular cinematic staple, the pirate film. At this rate, whatever was commercial five years ago will be fodder for the next Ice affront.

 
#5: The Ernest P. Worrell Franchise (10 Films)


Jim Varney was an accomplished character actor who stumbled upon a local ad campaign and the rest is redneck reject history. As Ernest, nosy neighbor to the always unseen Vern, the genial gentleman became a human punchline, and it wasn’t long before Hollywood came hacking for his comedic presence. A pile of films later, and Varney went from phenom to farce. Up until his untimely death, he was stymied as a stooge when the truth was far more complicated. While his movies where nothing more than broad slapstick set-ups, his talent nearly transcended them… nearly.

 
#4: The Underworld Franchise (4 Films)


Vampires vs. Werewolves. Add in some unnecessary romance and you have Stephanie Meyers in an illiterate nutshell. In this case, the Matrix influenced film series, set in a world where monsters battle each other for fashion sense superiority, became a hit with those hoping for more comic book, superhero sass. What they ended up with was ghoul glamour encased in a bullet ballet veneer. After a mandatory sequel and a limp prequel, star Kate Beckinsale punched her permanent paycheck, returning to the skin tight spandex role that made her a male adolescent crush. Not as bad as Twilight, but twice as unnecessary.

 
#3: The Step Up Franchise (4 Films)


Sullen country/suburban girl hits the big city. There, she meets her creative equal in a misunderstood stud who can flex like a Chippendales and dance like MC Hammer. Thus we have this weird combination of choreography and calculated melodrama, all given the So You Think You Can Hoof heave ho in order to make viewers wish they could move like Jagger. Yes, it’s all formula and footwork, the music video flash of each film covering up the complete lack of characterization or emotional investment. Still, as long as sweaty skin-slicked model types trip the light false-tastic, who cares?

 
#2: The Resident Evil Franchise (5 Films)


There is probably no franchise on this list that had as much glorified geek anticipation as this eventual underachiever. After all, the games remain uber popular and the premise—zombie apocalypse couched within a corrupt corporate scheme—is just ripe for genre joy. Unfortunately, the series fell under the misguided muse of Paul W. S. Anderson, who left almost everything he knew about filmmaking back when he managed to make Event Horizon watchable. Truth be told, the living dead shouldn’t be shuttled aside for more starring vehicle vacancy from Ms. A, otherwise known as Milla Jovovich. So much potential pissed away.

 
#1: The Land Before Time Franchise (13 Films)


First of all, one imagines that many of your reading this didn’t realize that someone in the subterranean regions of Tinseltown was still cranking out these creaky cartoons. After all, the original Don Bluth effort came out in 1988! Still, never discount the desire of beleaguered parents to push anything quieting on their overly hyperactive offspring. In this case, we have the unnecessary adventures of a group of young dinosaurs, each “journey” acting as another platform for a series of Sesame Street lite life lessons. Dull as dino droppings and twice as rancid, the fact that there’s more than a dozen of these derivative excuses for entertainment should be considered something akin to child abuse.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/160794-the-10-most-unfathomable-franchises-in-film/