Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

Anchorman 2 was released this past week and, so far, the response has been fairly positive. By now, fans of Anchorman are well aware of the difficulties that were involved in getting the sequel made in the first place, but given that the first one has become such a cult classic, it seemed weird that Paramount were initially so hesitant about the idea. Now that Ron Burgandy is back, we can rejoice, but it also gives us a chance to look back at other comedy sequels that were made in the past couple of decades.

We all would like to see sequels to our favorite comedies, just like we want to see our favorite band get back together again. But it’s hard to make a good comedy sequel, almost as hard as making a good comeback album. When you think of all the great comedies that have been made in the history of film, you rarely think of their sequels as being equal or superior. There’s a pretty good reason for that. A sequel to a comedy has the odds stacked against it from the beginning. Sometimes a great comedy film is just the result of great timing. The cast establishes a good rapport with each other and the jokes feel new and fresh. The second time around, that cast is too busy getting massages between takes to care about being funny, thanks to the film’s budget being increased tenfold.

Often, the worst kinds of comedy sequels are the ones that have a specific concept. How do you repeat the same concept and still make it funny? There’s going to be a Horrible Bosses 2 next year and it’s as if nobody has learned their lesson. What are they going to do? Find new bosses to kill? It was moderately funny the first time around, you’re going to try to do it all over again?

On the other hand, the few comedy sequels that are great work because the comedies are more character-based. The sequel puts the characters in exciting new situations where the movie can still feel fresh and they don’t repeat themselves. Of course, there’s a flipside to that. As I hinted at before, a comedy that winds up becoming hugely successful is inevitably going to get a sequel with a ridiculously high budget. Suddenly, the movie is more about being “bigger” than being funnier. The worst example of this is with Bruce Almighty. They took a side character from the movie, played by Steve Carrell, and made him build a giant ark in the sequel. Over $175 million was spent on Evan Almighty and the film became more about the effects than the humor. Evan Almighty wound up being utterly humorless. I would have included it on this list, but let’s face it, it was not expected to be that great in the first place.

In fact, I did my best to keep out movies that were expected to be bad. Grown Ups 2 was always going to be a critical disaster, no matter what. So why bother? Caddyshack II has had enough vitriol thrown its way, it seems pointless to rehash the same points. So, generally speaking, the bad list has more to do with expectations being unfulfilled. These sequels could have been funny, but the magic just was not there, the concept was tired, and the jokes were too flat.

On the “great” side, and believe me that word is being used a bit loosely, I included movies that I would have no problem watching again. Some I can watch over and over, laughing every time. With each case, the concepts seem more inspired, the jokes are still creative, and the movies feature characters that are always fun to revisit.

Now let’s get to the list…

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