C'MON HOLLYWOOD: Don't make a Bridesmaids sequel!
This week, as BRIDESMAIDS continues to perform well above expectations at the box-office, THE HANGOVER, PART II hits theaters. Like BRIDESMAIDS, THE HANGOVER was a surprise, R-rated summer comedy. And sadly, like THE HANGOVER, a sequel to BRIDESMAIDS could be on the way.
You should know that I love BRIDESMAIDS. I liked THE HANGOVER too but BRIDESMAIDS is definitely a better movie (THE HANGOVER is a great comedy but it lacks the dramatic punch of BRIDESMAIDS). As THE HANGOVER, PART II gets ready to hits theaters, early buzz indicates that the film isn't necessarily terrible just terribly unnecessary. In its review, Variety mentions that both HANGOVER films "could be projected side-by-side in perfect synchronicity, with the only changes to many scenes being the location, the wardrobe and the addition of the word "again" to the dialogue."
So how and why did a HANGOVER sequel get made? Well, for starters, Warner Bros. was sniffing around early tracking on the original and knew they had a hit on their hands so they wisely secured the film's three stars for a sequel before the film was even released. And once the film became the top-grossing R-rated comedy of all-time, a sequel was a no-brainer.
But just because it's a no-brainer from a financial point-of-view, it's almost completely contradictory in the creative sense. Comedy sequels are almost always a let-down. Unless you count TOY STORY 2, I'm not sure I can think of a comedy sequel that can even hold its own against the original.
Convention wisdom has it that a BRIDESMAIDS sequel would involve some kind of baby shower scenario (which seems to work in the real world universe where Maya Rudolph seems perpetually pregnant). But BRIDESMAIDS isn't a great movie because it's a female version of THE HANGOVER - it works because it's the classic spiraling-out-of-control movie with Kristen Wiig masterfully playing the woman who's on the verge of a nervous breakdown because her life is unraveling around her. At the end of BRIDESMAIDS we're led to believe that she's got her shit together (to some degree) and how or why are we following a well-adjusted Annie through another film? She was our heroine because she's flawed, frantic and out-of-sorts - character traits we can all appreciate. But if they revert Annie to her old ways in a sequel it invalidates the first film. "Yes, she got her shit together but it's completely unraveling all over again!" Can Rose Byrne still be a bitch? Are we still shocked by Melissa McCarthy's character? Can Ellie Kemper still be that naive?
I get that sequels are important to the financial health of Hollywood. The vast majority of films hitting theaters this summer are sequels (even an alarming number of fourth films) and they'll make a lot of people, a lot of money. It's somewhat of a no-brainer for action, superhero and horror films that are successful. But comedy is one genre that the sequel has yet to conquer.
As Zach Galifianakis has talked about while out promoting THE HANGOVER, PART II, the element of surprise is crucial to comedy. "It's not good for comedy to be like, Thanks for liking me," Galifianakis told Time Magazine. "Being popular is poison." That's Galifianakis' particularly dark outlook on but he's right: comedy is infinitely more difficult when the audience comes with both expectations and a knowledge and prejudice of the actor and the character.
The cast of BRIDESMAIDS is so good they deserve the same success that Steve Carell, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and Jonah Hill found after THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN and KNOCKED UP became huge hits. What they don't deserve is a slapdash sequel, trotting out the familiar characters because BRIDESMAIDS made a big corporation a lot of money.
McCarthy signed a production deal to develop two new movies and Kristen Wiig will surely have her pick of projects. And as much as I love the film, I look forward to any of those potential projects (and follow-up films from director Paul Feig and producer Judd Apatow) than I ever word to a BRIDESMAIDS sequel.