Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Why Critics Can’t Be Trusted With Sequels by Max Allan Collins

Why Critics Can’t Be Trusted With Sequels

December 2nd, 2014 by Max Allan Collins     www.maxallancollins.com
The kneejerk reaction of most film critics to a sequel is to trash it. They walk in hating the movie they are being forced to see (usually for free, I might add). There have been exceptions – the second GODFATHER, for instance – but in recent years, when sequels have proliferated, the critical response to them has been so automatically negative as to make their comments worthless.
Case in point: two recent films that are sequels to very successful comedies have received almost interchangeably bad reviews: DUMB AND DUMBER TO and HORRIBLE BOSSES 2.
In the first instance, the critics have a point – this many-years-later sequel to that beloved celebration of idiocy is something many of us looked forward to. Who, with the ability to laugh, would not want to catch up with Lloyd and Harry? For the first two-thirds or so of the film, the movie is funny, and Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels deliver throughout. Then there is a bad and unfortunate stumble in the third act, where plot concerns kick in and laughs fall out. And the co-directing/scripting Farrelly Brothers seem out of step, their gross-out ‘90s sensibility turning cruel, not darkly funny. An easy line to cross, particularly when you’re struggling to catch lightning in a bottle twice. You’re more likely to get hit by it.
So DUMB AND DUMBER TO probably deserves some bad reviews – though not to the severe degree it suffered. But, yes, it’s a disappointment.
Then comes HORRIBLE BOSSES 2. The reviews read almost exactly the same as those for DUMB AND DUMBER TO. But the film is easily funnier than its predecessor, if having less integrity (this is a fate most sequels meet). BOSSES 2 builds on the first movie, turning its trio of former would-be murderers into would-be kidnappers (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudekis), who are in high bumbling, fast-talking form. Bateman may be the funniest straight-man of all time, and that’s coming from somebody who reveres Bud Abbott and Dean Martin.
Jaimie Fox, Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Spacey reappear in top form (the latter a glorified cameo that still almost steals the film) while Chris Pine turns out to be very funny, at times seeming to channel William Shatner more overtly than in the reboot STAR TREK films. Then there’s the most horrible boss of all – Christoph Waltz – who is, as usual, a master of civility-coated villainy.
This is one of those richly comic films that will require several viewings to catch every funny line. At the same time, it manages to present a new story for the central characters that has enough echoes of the previous one to serve the “same but different” requirement. Because we are familiar with the characters, they don’t build – they reappear full-throttle and yet ascend from there.
A typical critical complaint: the three leads do not have horrible bosses this time. And that’s true – they are the horrible bosses, although in a much different way than the trio they hoped to murder last time around.
The lesson here is simple: don’t trust film critics (except me, of course). Most of them didn’t like either DUMB OR DUMBER or HORRIBLE BOSSES, either – so their reviews tend to be bad sequels to a previous bad review.


Dave Zeltserman said...

Boston Globe film critic on reviewing Horrible Bosses 2 said it was vastly better than the original.

Dan said...

Sequels have a cachet that seems to automatically disqualify them from serious consideration--by some critics. I think it goes back to the early days of film criticism, when Serious Critics extolled the social values of THE GRAPES OF WRATH but couldn't bother with a movie called BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.

Of course, the fact that most sequels are made with both eyes on the box office doesn't help much....

Mathew Paust said...

"We are not trying to entertain the critics. I'll take my chances with the public." -- Walt Disney

"The critics? They can be cremated." -- Saul Bellow