There are few things the Hollywood machine loves to chew up for fresh consumption more than an existing franchise, which is why jokes about sequels getting made that absolutely no one outside of the studio system had any desire to see are so easy to make (yes, we’re looking at you, Jonathan Schaech-starring “Road House 2: Last Call”). But what about worthy sequels that took their sweet time getting to the big screen? What of classic films that got saddled with a follow-up feature whole decades later? What about “The Hitcher II: I’ve Been Waiting”?
This week’s wide release, “The Best Man Holiday,” is just such a case of a sequel that took almost too much time getting to the big screen – so much time, in fact, that it’s reasonable to assume that most fans of Malcolm D. Lee’s 1999 feature had entirely forgotten about a possible follow-up. Yet, here is “The Best Man Holiday,” hitting screens just a smidge over fourteen years after its original debuted, and thus joining a long line of sequels that popped up after a large gap of time. (And, yes, the final minutes of “The Best Man Holiday” unequivocally set it up for yet another feature, so everyone say hello to the latest franchise you didn’t even really know existed.)
10.) CHINATOWN // THE TWO JAKES (16 years)
Forget it, “The Two Jakes,” it’s “Chinatown.” At least, that’s what somebody should have said to Jack Nicholson before he set about directing and starring in 1990’s “The Two Jakes,” a wholly unsatisfying and unwanted sequel to 1974 classic “Chinatown.” Sure, Nicholson reprised his role as private detective J.J. “Jake” Gittes and the Robert Towne-penned script dove still deeper into the twisted world of the Mulwrays, but it didn’t live up to its predecessor, so much that it effectively killed Towne’s planned third film, “Gittes vs. Gittes.”
9.) THE LAST PICTURE SHOW // TEXASVILLE ( 19 years)
While there are plenty of good sequels out there (even the ones that take their time to get made), that doesn’t mean that every sequel needs to be made – in fact, most of them don’t, especially when they try to spin off wonderful, classic, enduring features. Such is the case with “The Last Picture Show” and “Texasville.” Sure, Peter Bogdanovich’s 1990 sequel to his 1971 gem (nearly a 19 year gap) had all the pieces in place for something wonderful – including original cast members Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Cloris Leachman, Timothy Bottoms, Randy Quaid, and Eileen Brennan – revisiting the residents of Anarene, Texas after so long away felt both invasive and unsatisfying. Plus, once you see “Texasville,” it’s hard to watch “The Last Picture Show” without feeling stung and saddened by Bogdanovich’s vision of Sonny’s (Bottoms) future.
8.) RAMBO III // RAMBO (20 years)
Admit it, you missed Rambo. You missed him enough to carry you through almost 20 years until you got an all-new Sylvester Stallone-starring feature. The reasons for the big gap between 1988’s “Rambo III” and “Rambo” were myriad – the original producer (Carolco Pictures) went out of business between productions, the rights bounced around a bit, Stallone said he didn’t want to make action films – but all of that was eventually fixed in time for Stallone and company to craft another mercenary mission right into the heart of action darkness. Sure, Stallone has said that he and his crew were almost killed by the Burmese army while filming the 2008 feature, but wasn’t it worth it? Maybe? Kind of?
7.) WALL STREET // WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS (23 years)
Greed may be good, but you know what’s not? Churning out an awkward sequel that made everyone involved look remarkably uninterested (and uninteresting). Oliver Stone’s 1987 “Wall Street” is good for a quote (or eighty) and it still stands as a classic cinematic example of the greed and excess of the eponymous street and its institutions back in the 1980s, but while all of that may have seemed like a good place to start when it came to addressing those same concerns in the wake of the modern financial crisis, its eventual sequel didn’t have the same punch. Stone did manage to bring back original stars like Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen for “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” almost 23 years after they tore things up in the original, but a young cast of rising stars like Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan added scarce little to the production.
6.) THE HUSTLER // THE COLOR OF MONEY (25 years)
Plenty of people derided Martin Scorsese’s 1984 “The Color of Money” for being an inferior sequel to Robert Rossen’s 1961 “The Hustler,” but you know what? Paul Newman won an Oscar for the later film after just being nominated for the first one. That has to count for something, right? Rossen’s original introduced the movie-going public to the cultural touchstone that is Newman’s “Fast Eddie” Felson, earning instant classic credibility and sealing itself in the public consciousness. “The Color of Money” might not have had the same impact when it hit theaters 25 years later, but how could it? At least it put Tom Cruise in front of a pool table and inspired then-film student Ben Stiller to direct a parody of it. That’s a legacy.
5.) TRON // TRON: LEGACY (28 years)
Sure, 2010’s “Tron: Legacy” might have received mixed reviews, but it also pulled in a massive $400 million take at the box office (making it the eleventh highest grossing film of the year), enough to keep interest in a third film buzzing right along. The original film hit screens back in 1982 (giving the pair a gap of over 28 years), and while it was successful back then, it really picked up speed as a cult classic in the intervening years. A sequel was inevitable – too bad Joseph Kosinski only managed to nail visuals (and that horrifying CG Jeff Bridges) but forgot to include any of the charms of Steven Lisberger’s original.
4.) THE ODD COUPLE // THE ODD COUPLE II (29 years)
The Jack Lemmon- and Walter Matthau-starring big screen version of Neil Simon’s play of the same name was a massive hit back in 1968, pulling in a staggering $44.5 million at the box office and eventually spawning a television version of the feature. It also helped seal the comedy duo’s major appeal (it was their second feature together), so it’s no surprise that it eventually spawned a sequel. It is, however, a shock that it took so long for that sequel to arrive in theaters – “The Odd Couple II” hit screens in 1998, almost 30 years after the first film delighted audiences. The sequel? Not so much. A bust with both audiences and critics (a stinger, considering how well the pair did with their “Grumpy Old Men” features during the same era), the film only made about $18 million domestically. Perhaps it would have done better if people realized it would be the last film the pair would star in together.
3.) NATIONAL VELVET // INTERNATIONAL VELVET (34 years)
Clarence Brown’s “National Velvet” could have just served as one heck of a coming out party for the stunning young Elizabeth Taylor, but the 1944 feature has remained a cherished classic. What could have been just another story of a girl and her horse, however, is a national treasure that became part of the National Film Registry in 2003 and still holds a 100% Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes (though we suspect no one is churning out new reviews of the film as of this very moment). Its sequel, 1978’s “International Velvet,” didn’t get quite as much acclaim. Arriving almost 34 years after the original, the Tatum O’Neal-starring follow-up may have admirably picked up with the story in an appropriate fashion, but without Taylor around to spice things up, it couldn’t quite soar in the same way (also, “Arizona Pie” is a bad name for a horse).
2.) BELLE DE JOUR // BELLE TOUJOURS (39 years)
While Luis Bunuel’s 1967 Catherine Deneuve-starring feature didn’t necessitate a sequel by any stretch of the imagination, that didn’t stop Portuguese director Manuel de Oliveira from churning one out in 2006, 39 years after the first film lit the screen on fire (well, metaphorically). On the surface, the idea of revisiting the life of disgraced housewife-turned-prostitute Séverine Serizy (played in de Oliveira’s film by Bulle Ogier) doesn’t appeal (especially when helmed by a new director with a new leading lady), but de Oliveira’s film is respectful and compelling, and his ability to bring back Michel Piccoli to play his original role gives it gravitas and a hearty sense of appropriate continuation.
1.) BAMBI // BAMBI II (63 years, 178 days)
Plenty of classic animated films have gotten a late-breaking sequel thanks to the magic of their medium (and, also, the magic of being able to create a film, slap on a recognizable name, and call it a day). “Bambi” and “Bambi II” stand out, however, because the pair of films handily win the longest gap between sequels award – a staggering 63 years and 178 days. The original “Bambi” was released way back in August of 1942, where it scarred children and adults alike for life (and also confused people when they realized Bambi was a boy). “Bambi II” was a direct-to-video offering from Disney that was first available in February of 2006. Despite its distinction as being the world record holder for biggest gap between consecutive features, “Bambi II” isn’t exactly a sequel – it’s a “midquel,” taking place in the middle of “Bambi” and focusing on the events that transpired between the orphaned Bambi meeting up with his dad and coming of age in the forest (you know, twitterpation time). It will still make you cry.