“City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold.” “Caddyshack 2.” “Ghostbusters 2.” “The Hangover 2.” “The Hangover 3.” The “Austin Powers” series. Why do so many comedy sequels fail so hard? What is it about comedies that makes franchises so stale and the films so bad? In theory, it should work, right? Affable actors, known characters, familiar situations; it could easily be more of the same as the first installment. But the problem is that comedy doesn’t work with “more of the same.” If you’ve known someone for a long time, you’ve probably heard a particular anecdote multiple times. The first time it was hilarious, the second time you knew what to expect, so the impact is inherently less humorous, and each subsequent time it loses some of its punch. The same can be said of comedy sequels. It’s not that they can’t succeed, but when they fail, it’s usually a matter of poor execution and lazy filmmaking that makes them so disappointing and terrible.
Let’s break it down a bit further. Most comedies are situation-based. True, there are funny characters reacting to the situation, but it is still a predicament of some sort that drives the story and the humor. “The Hangover,” for example, has a funny cast, but they are thrust into a comic milieu because of the situation of not remembering what happened the night before and piecing it all together while reacting to each new discovery with a signature personality. The problem in the sequels is that the novelty of the situation has already been squandered; we’ve already seen them have a problem with a lost night out, so why are we watching it again? Furthermore, it strains whatever credulity the plot already had by simply saying, “Here we go again.” What are the odds the same outrageous thing happens to the same people multiple times like that? If familiarity breeds contempt, then redundant and overwrought plots breed unhappy audiences.