Of the 39 surefire blockbusters chronicled in this year’s two-part Summer Movie Preview, at least a third of them are either sequels in ongoing franchises, or reboots of existing properties. This strikes us as a failure of imagination: Why can’t all 39 have sequels (or prequels or crossovers)? After all, if a clear one-off comedy like The Hangover can be tortured into a comedy franchise, what’s to stop Terrence Malick from turning The Tree Of Life into a money-generating forest of spin-offs? With that in mind, we’ve thrown together a few half-baked ideas for follow-ups to this year’s summer hits. You’re welcome, Hollywood.
Bridesmaids (May 13)
What it’s about: Co-writer/star Kristen Wiig answers The Hangover with a raunchy wedding-themed comedy of her own, starring as the beleaguered maid of honor for her closest friend, played by Maya Rudolph. As her plans for bridal festivities start to go awry, she faces a rival (Rose Byrne) for best-friend status.
Why a sequel is essential: Because ensemble comedies built around funny, relatable women should come around more than once in a lifetime. Also: because if tortured plotting can summon The Hangover Part II into existence, anything is possible.
Possible sequel: Bridesmaids II: The Hangover Part III. Casts and demographics come together in an unstoppable crossover comedy hit set during another wild night in Vegas—all made possible through gimmicky overlapping timelines. Alejandro González Iñárritu directs.
Priest (May 13)
What it’s about: Based (very loosely) on Hyung Min-woo’s comic book series, Priest stars Paul Bettany as a warrior-cleric in a world where vampires and humans are at war. Like John Wayne in The Searchers, Betanny heads into hostile territory with a posse to save his niece before the savages assimilate her.
Why a sequel is essential: Hyung’s Priest ran for 10 years and 16 volumes. If they keep making Priest movies, maybe they’ll accidentally make one that resembles the source material.
Possible sequel: Alternately, how about more weird horror-fantasy riffs on John Wayne movies? Like Cardinal, with Bettany as a one-eyed bounty hunter who helps a little girl catch the vampire who killed her pa. Or Pope, with Bettany as an aging warrior who returns home to die.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May 20)
What it’s about: Johnny Depp’s swishy eyeliner-pirate quests for the Fountain Of Youth, alongside enemy-turned-partner Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), just-plain-enemy Blackbeard (Ian McShane), and Blackbeard’s daughter, enemy-but-possible-love-interest Angelica (Penélope Cruz).
Why a sequel is essential: The first three films collectively made more than $2 billion. That’s Lord Of The Rings money, insane studio-tentpole mad money. For that kind of cash, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Walt Disney pictures would be legally justified in kidnapping everyone Johnny Depp has ever cared about and holding them at ice-pick-point until he puts the dreadlocks-wig back on and swans about a little more for the cameras. No jury in the capitalist world would convict them.
Possible sequel: Make that “all-but-inevitable sequel”; Disney is already planning the fifth and sixth Pirates movies. Given that On Stranger Tides was inspired by Tim Powers’ 1987 pirate novel of the same name, further Pirates movies could also look to the printed page for inspiration. No one’s adapted the popular, inherently ridiculous Vampirates series yet, and while the Pirates series (counting this one) has featured ghosts, gods, zombies, and mermaids, it’s pretty short on vampires so far. Throw in a ninja somewhere, and they can just call the next film Pirates Of The Caribbean: Search For The Ultimate Zeitgeist Mine.
The Hangover: Part II (May 26)
What it’s about: Though the title suggests The Hangover: Part II will find its characters dealing with the effects of the same hangover they suffered in the hit 2009 comedy The Hangover, the film takes place some time later in Thailand. Beyond that, the studio has kept a fairly tight lid on plot details, though the prominent presence of a monkey in all the ads suggests a monkey may be involved.
Why a sequel is essential: Our memories are hazy, but it’s possible some characters didn’t have their balls Tasered to a sufficiently hilarious degree in the first movie. Or maybe director Todd Phillips felt the first film didn’t have enough shrill, castrating caricatures of women. Or monkeys.
Possible sequel: In The Hangover: Part III: 3-D, the boys travel to a Florida water park, which Lou Gossett Jr. tries to keep from descending into chaos when a great white shark starts eating everything in sight. He fails, but Mike Tyson has another cameo.
Kung Fu Panda 2 (May 26)
What it’s about: After the panda Po (Jack Black) abruptly realized at the end of Kung Fu Panda that he knew kung fu, he saved the day and everyone lived happily ever after. Until now, when a new “secret weapon”—gunpowder, it looks like—threatens to end the rule of the kung-fu masters.
Why a sequel is essential: Does DreamWorks have any idea how to make a CGI movie that isn’t part of a franchise? Jeffrey Katzenberg announced in 2010 that the studio was already considering plots for a total of six Kung Fu Panda movies, two more Madagascar sequels (No. 3 comes out in 2012), and two more How To Train Your Dragon films (No. 2 is scheduled for 2014), all on top of four Shrek movies and the Puss In Boots spin-off later this year.
Possible sequel: Come to think of it, a few DreamWorks CGI films haven’t been sequelized yet, with good reason. But maybe DreamWorks can get its money’s worth on all that initial design and development by crossing the streams. Kung Fu Panda 3: Bee Movie 2, anyone?
The Tree Of Life (May 27)
What it’s about: Um… life? And stuff? Terrence Malick’s long-awaited art-drama has been shrouded in mystery ever since it was announced, and the few photos and trailers that have been released don’t reveal much. We do know that it stars Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain as parents in the American Midwest in the ’50s, and Sean Penn as their son in the present day, who’s grappling with the different ways his father and mother taught him to see the world. It may be autobiographical. And there are dinosaurs.
Why a sequel is essential: Life goes on, man.
Possible sequel: The Trees Of Life. Penn’s character reportedly has two brothers. What’s their story? Does the family perhaps have some uncles and aunts with their own persuasive philosophies? What if, like, one of those dinosaurs were frozen for millennia and then thawed in 2012, just in time to help fulfill the prophesies of the Mayans? Think, Malick, think!
Beginners (June 3)
What it’s about: In Mike Mills’ semi-autobiographical follow-up to Thumbsucker, Christopher Plummer plays an elderly widower who surprises son Ewan McGregor with the news that he’s gay. And has cancer. Mélanie Laurent co-stars as McGregor’s love interest.
Why a sequel is essential: Surely there are other secrets for McGregor to discover. Beginners could be a tentpole for a whole series of films in which his character repeatedly finds out that the people around him have been living a lie.
Possible sequel: In the prequel Beginners: The Beginning, a young actor plays McGregor’s character as a boy, blithely going about his business and failing to notice basic facts about the friends and family around him. Also possible: Beginners: The End, a post-apocalyptic adventure in which McGregor fails for at least the first two reels to notice the world has crumbled around him.
X-Men: First Class (June 3)
What it’s about: Returning to 1962—a year before the actual X-Men comic series debuted—this reboot of the superhero-movie franchise looks at the early days of Professor Charles Xavier’s school for mutants and his falling-out with old friend Erik “Magneto” Lehnsherr. James McAvoy plays the young Professor X; Michael Fassbender plays Magneto. Kevin Bacon, January Jones, and Jennifer Lawrence are among the actors filling out the background as heroes and villains.
Why a sequel is essential: You can’t have a “first” without a “second,” can you?
Possible sequel: X-Men: Business Class. Xavier’s mutants spend the whole movie flying around in a remodeled version of the Blackbird, with poor leg-room and limited beverage service.
Judy Moody And The Not Bummer Summer (June 10)
What it’s about: When Judy Moody’s parents leave her and her brother Stink in the care of wacky, childlike Aunt Opal (Heather Graham) for the summer, Judy sets out to accrue as many “thrilladelic” points as possible by trying adventurous things.
Why a sequel is essential: Even the most hyperkinetic kids’ movie can only fit so much roller-coaster-barfing, surfing, table-dancing, and Bigfoot-chasing (not to mention high-pitched squealing) into one summer. Besides, there are nine Judy Moody children’s books to mine for plot points, not to mention all the Stink books.
Possible sequel: Judy Moody And The Winter Of Clinical Depression.
Super 8 (June 10)
What it’s about: In 1979, a group of geeky teens make a movie with a Super 8 camera. And that’s it. Oh, wait: There’s also a train crash, an alien of some kind, the look and feel of a vintage Steven Spielberg movie, Coach Taylor, and J.J. Abrams’ name in the writer and director slots, which is kind of exciting.
Why a sequel is essential: Super 8’s sequels will follow the same characters as they age and start using different formats to make movies as the years, and new technologies, advance.
Possible sequel: Set in the late ’80s, Hi8 finds the now twentysomething kids making movies and fighting monsters in the shadow of the Bush/Dukakis election, to the accompaniment of college-rock hits by the Hoodoo Gurus and The Screaming Blue Messiahs.
Green Lantern (June 17)
What it’s about: Ryan Reynolds plays DC comics hero Hal Jordan, a headstrong test pilot reluctantly selected to join the intergalactic Green Lantern Corps and fight against a grave threat to the stability of the universe.
Why a sequel is essential: Judging by the trailer, Green Lantern is going to be thick with backstory and weighed down by Reynolds’ not-as-loveable-as-he-thinks douchebaggery. As with most superhero franchises, the second movie will have to be the one that actually tells a story.
Possible sequel: Red Lantern. This could either be an adaptation of the comics’ “Rage Of The Red Lanterns” storyline, about a corps composed of power-ringed cranks bent on vengeance, or a gentle drama in which the members of said corps serve as courtesans in 1920s China and compete to win their master’s favor.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins (June 17)
What it’s about: Jim Carrey stars as the sort of businessman who shouts things into cell phones, walks everywhere in a terrible hurry, and doesn’t appreciate life—until six penguins throw his rigid existence into chaos.
Why a sequel is essential: Ben Stiller and Noah Baumbach were on board as the film’s original star and director before dropping out. It’s possible that they were simply waiting for the sequel. Who wouldn’t want to see a big-budget children’s film from the team that brought you Greenberg?
Possible sequel: Mr. Popper’s Malaise. The human protagonist lurches into a deep depression after his penguins leave him, and he wanders around Los Angeles feeling melancholy, angry, and lost. Needless to say, this sequel is tailored specifically for Stiller and Baumbach.
Bad Teacher (June 24)
What it’s about: Though it has nothing official in common with Bad Santa, this comedy about a foul-mouthed, misanthropic junior-high-school teacher (Cameron Diaz) who shouldn’t be around children seems to have a similar dynamic. But the presence of two romantic interests in a gym teacher (Jason Segel) and a new substitute (Justin Timberlake) suggests this might be a little softer.
Why a sequel is essential: As unfunny as they are separately, Diaz and Timberlake are thrice as unfunny as a comedy duo. Yet the entertainment press insists that precisely the opposite is true. So a sequel stands to be both twice as bad and twice as inexplicably celebrated.
Possible sequel: Good Teacher. Now that she’s found love and learned the value of truly making a difference in young people’s lives, Diaz continues to make great strides as an educator. Featuring a special appearance by Secretary Of Education Arne Duncan.
A Better Life (June 24)
What it’s about: In this explosion-filled action thrill-ride of a movie… Oh wait, no. In this small, heartfelt, beautifully acted indie film—which seems like an odd release for the heart of summer and an odd project for The Golden Compass and Twilight Saga: New Moon director Chris Weitz—an illegal Mexican immigrant fights to improve his life so his sullen teenage son will have better opportunities.
Why a sequel is essential: The fairly depressing ending leaves the story in a perfect position for a follow-up, though crazily enough, that may be what snobby, elitist artist-types call “a realistic narrative decision” rather than “an opportunity to cash in big-time on the franchise.”
Possible sequel: Maybe in A Better Life 2: Seriously, Actually Better, the immigrant experience can be presented as something other than a heartbreaking slog against the odds. Also, perhaps rainbows could somehow dance with unicorns.
Cars 2 (June 24)
What it’s about: “Racing star Lightning McQueen teams up with his best friend Mater for an international adventure as they go up against the world’s fastest cars.” Ugh. Pixar, we’ve never had to work harder to continue believing in your commitment to character, story, and authentic emotion.
Why a sequel is essential: It’s hard to believe that this sequel was essential.
Possible sequel: Cars 3: They Race Some More Or Something, I Guess. Maybe sequel No. 3 can finally address the weirdly persistent Internet bitch-fest question of why anthropomorphic cars’ eyes would be in their windshields instead of their headlights. (Answer: Headlight eyes would be disproportionately, eerily freakin’ small, guys.)
Larry Crowne (July 1)
What it’s about: Tom Hanks directs, co-writes (with Nia Vardalos), and stars in a comedy about a middle-aged man who goes back to college and falls in love with a professor (played by Julia Roberts).
Why a sequel is essential: What the hell kind of college movie is this? Where’s the partying? The panty raids? The crusty old dean? We need a sequel just so Hanks can get it right.
Possible sequel: Hey, there’s always grad school, right? How about Larry Crowne And The Deathly GRE?
Monte Carlo (July 1)
What it’s about: Disney Channel acting/singing sensation Selena Gomez continues her run on the tween market with this credulity-straining comedy, in which she plays a vacationing American waitress who’s mistaken for a British heiress. Katie Cassidy and Gossip Girl’s Leighton Meester star as the friends who go along for the ride.
Why a sequel is essential: Because manufacturing a second mistaken-identity plot after Gomez’s true identity as an imposter has been revealed would likely yield the stupidest script in Hollywood history.
Possible sequel: Texasburg. As Gomez and friends are off gallivanting in Europe, a British heiress vacationing in America gets stuck in a one-horse Texas town, where she’s mistaken for Gomez and forced to work double shifts at a greasy spoon. Along the way, she learns humility and small-town values.
Transformers: Dark Of The Moon (July 1)
What it’s about: Puny man-animal Shia LaBeouf returns as an affable everyman caught between warring alien civilizations who are on a quest to retrieve a valuable doodad on the moon that holds the key to both races’ destiny or some such bullshit.
Why a sequel is essential: Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen left audiences with a few lingering questions, such as, “What the fuck is going on?” A sequel could help clarify matters. Or further confuse.
Possible sequel: Worlds collide as the Autobots and Decepticons unite to take on their off-brand knockoffs in Transformers Vs. Gobots: Mighty Robots, Mighty Vehicles In Conflict.
Horrible Bosses (July 8)
What it’s about: As the title suggests, this is a film about horrible bosses, played here by Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, and Kevin Spacey. Seeking to murder said horrible bosses: employees Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis. Also, the screenwriting team includes Freaks And Geeks’ John Francis Daley, King Of Kong’s Seth Gordon directs, and Jamie Foxx plays a character named “Motherfucka Jones.”
Why a sequel is essential: Can a single film address the issue of horrible bosses with the thoroughness it demands? Of course not. Taking a page from The Hangover, each entry in the Horrible Bosses series will transplant the cast to a different part of the world where they take on new jobs and encounter, yes, more horrible bosses.
Possible sequel: Fourrible Bosses—the follow up to Horrible Bosses: Triple Threat—moves the action to Mexico, where, now performing sub-minimum-wage factory work and living three-to-a-room to make ends meet, the leads realize their first bosses might not have been so horrible after all.
Zookeeper (July 8)
What it’s about: In a film that is apparently distinguishable from the Night At The Museum movies somehow, Kevin James plays a sad, fat zookeeper who can’t get lucky with his own species until the animals in his zoo decide to coach him in romance, not unlike Will Smith did in the film Hitch.
Why a sequel is essential: It’s Night At The Museum by way of Hitch. Only a studio executive who hated money would refrain from green-lighting a sequel.
Possible sequel: Love is in the stars for James when he wanders into a planetarium and acquires the ability to talk to black holes, meteors, stars, and planets in Zookeeper 2: Starstruck.
Tomorrow: Our preview of Sequel Summer continues, with Final Destination 5, Spy Kids 4, Harry Potter 8, and Planet Of The Apes Umpty-Million-And-Three.