Sequels are hard to do. Making a good sequel is even harder. Making a good comedy sequel is even harder than that. Zoolander 2 is a perfect example of this.
Zoolander was a 2001 comedy. Some would call it beloved, while others would not, but it does have a 64% on Rotten Tomatoes and most would call it a solid comedy. Zoolander 2, on the other hand, has a 23% and is not doing too hot at the box office fifteen years later. David Sims over at The Atlantic has a great quote that exemplifies the movie:
Zoolander 2 takes pains to reference every successful gag you remember from the original, and then embellish them in painful-often offensive, almost always outdated-fashion.
Zoolander 2 is just the latest failure of comedy sequels. Just last two years ago, there was Dumb and Dumber To. Before that, there was 2 more Hangovers, a Caddyshack II, and a Major League 2. And the list can go on and on.
But, why is that? Why do comedies have so much trouble with sequels? Well, I got a few ideas.
They Tell The Same Story
The biggest problem most comedy sequels have is that they tell the same story as the first movie. A lot of sequels, not just comedies, have this issue, but it rarely affects movies as much as it does comedies. The first movie worked. The first movie was funny. So, why not do it again? The same joke rarely is as funny the second time. People don't always want to see the same story twice. The aforementioned Hangover sequel had this issue.
22 Jump Street is one of the few films that got around this. That movie embraced what it was. It knew that it was telling the same story and used that as a vantage. It made jokes about it and played with your expectations about what was coming. And everyone in that movie committed to the joke. And that makes 22 Jump Street one of the best comedy sequels out there.
The Comedy Landscape Changes
This one Zoolander 2 definitely has an issue with. What is popular now was not what was popular ten years ago. So, movies like Zoolander and Dumb and Dumber are fine movies that hold up, but they are very much of their time. The same jokes that worked in 2001 might not work in 2016. Comedy has changed. Sometimes movie sequels don't.
Anchorman 2: The Legends Continues is one of the few comedies that survived a long wait. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was a movie that brought together the talents of Will Ferrell, Christine Applegate, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, and David Koechner. And in 2013, they decided to come together to make a sequel. And instead of relying on old gags, it did something a little different. And, honestly, it was a better movie.
It Is Just Really Hard To Make A Good Sequel
It is hard to make a sequel to any movie. It is really hard for a comedy. Comedy is so subjective. What I think is funny and what you think is funny might be two completely different things. And, so, if a studio can make one funny movie, it is a win. If that movie makes money, it is even better. So, of course, they want to make another one.
However, lighting rarely strikes twice. Actors might not come back. The script had different writers. The film might not have the same director. A lot of things have to go right to make a film. And everything has to go right to make a good film. To do that twice? You have to be damn lucky.
That's Just My Opinion
Got any idea what makes it so hard to make a good comedy sequel? What is your favorite comedy sequel?