This month, Dumb and Dumber To hit theaters almost 20 years since the original film. Studios seem to think that audiences grow fonder over time. But the reality is that the product rarely meets the years of anticipation. Will Dumb and Dumber To become a hit? Maybe. But looking back on long gestating sequels does not bode well for the slapstick comedy.
Back in 2008, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas persuaded actor Harrison Ford to again don the hat and whip for the fourth Indiana Jones film. It had been a long 19 years since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and the fans were rabid for another installment to the beloved franchise. But even with Ford, Lucas, Spielberg and even Karen Allen (Raiders of the Lost Ark) back for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the film was a bust with audiences and the film took home the Razzie Award for the worst sequel in 2009. Sure, the film made money. Some $800 million worth. But critics lambasted the ridiculous storyline and the film had lost the fun factor that made the original trilogy a must-see for kids and adults alike.
George Lucas waited 16 years between Star Wars films. The original trilogy ended in 1983 with Return of the Jedi and it wasn’t until 1999 that Lucas unleashed Star Wars: The Phantom Menace to a rabid fan base. Much like the Indiana Jones fourth film, The Phantom Menace did bring in huge returns for the studio. It opened large and when the lights finally dimmed there were $1 billion reasons for 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm to be happy. But The Phantom Menace was nominated for 7 Razzie Awards and is still considered one of the worst big budget sequels of all-time.
Indiana Jones and Star Wars have nothing on the Tron films in terms of the gap between films. 28 years. The original Tron hit theaters in 1982. Tron: Legacy trotted out in 2010. Both films starred Jeff Bridges and both films made money. But Tron: Legacy was not the huge blockbuster the studio had hoped and talks of heavily investing in a third science fiction adventure have all but vanished.
There have been plenty of other films that have waited two-plus decades before continuing their respective stories. The Color of Money (1986) was released 25 years after The Hustler debuted in 1961. The original The Hustler was in black and white. The sequel was able to take advantage of a still breathing Paul Newman and it coupled him with some guy named Tom Cruise in hopes of box office glory. The film was widely accepted by critics topping a Fresh Tomato rating of over 90% on rottentomatoes.com. But ultimately, the film stalled and the film did less box office damage than The Karate Kid II, Down and Out in Beverley Hills and Ruthless People.
23 years was the wait between films for both the Psycho and the Wall Street franchises. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho wowed, frightened and enthralled audiences in 1960. But it took until 1983 for the story of Norman Bates returning home to hit the big screens. The sequel has since garnished some cult attention, but it was ultimately considered a flop being only the 20th highest grossing film of 1983.
Michael Douglas was willing to suit up for the sequel to his Academy Award winning hit, Wall Street (1987) with Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps in 2010. Despite having the worst title of any film that year, Money Never Sleeps opened soft and finished as the 64th highest grossing film of 2010 looking up at Tooth Fairy, Resident Evil and Diary of a Wimpy Kid in embarrassment.
And don’t get us started on The Godfather III (16 years later), Rocky Balboa (16 years later) and Escape from New York (16 years) that were all critical disappointments
The trend doesn’t seem to be slowing either. In 2015 we can expect another Mad Max film that originally debuted in 1979. There is another Terminator film on the way and there are talks for another Friday the 13th reboot and Jurassic World will bring us back to our favorite dinosaur park.
So good luck to ya Dumb and Dumber To. Odds are against you. But if you keep true to the characters and keep away from Sith loving aliens who keep crystal skulls hidden in their Tron cycles you might just find an audience.