Lost Roles is a weekly column exploring what could have been, examining the projects and casting choices that almost happened but fell apart for one reason or another. This week, we’re taking a look at the comedy sequels that never made it through the development grinder.
With The Hangover Part II coming to theaters tomorrow, it’s an appropriate time to examine the state of the comedy sequel. Sequels, by their very nature, are usually just shameless rehashes of their predecessors that grow increasingly worse as the franchise continues. While there are exceptions, most good sequels are outside of the comedy realm. But that hasn’t stopped filmmakers, actors, and execs from going for it anyway. While some, like The Hangover Part II, make it to theaters, Hollywood has its fair share of sequels that never get through the development phase. Let’s take a look at some planned sequels that never materialized.
1. National Lampoon’s Animal House II
After Animal House became a surprise hit in 1978, Universal started pushing for a another one. A few drafts were written, with the new project depicting the members of Delta House five years later in the Summer of Love. A draft of the script, which you can read a review of here, was even turned in after John Belushi’s death. This particular edition of the screenplay made no mention of Bluto Blutarsky until the last scene in which the Deltas toast him. Needless to say, Animal House without John Belushi makes very little sense, and that’s why the studio scrapped this project.
2. Roger Rabbit: The Toon Platoon/Who Discovered Roger Rabbit?
A direct-to-video prequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, entitled Roger Rabbit: The Toon Platoon, was written in the late ‘80s but never got off the ground. The WWII-era story involved a young Roger Rabbit rescuing Jessica Rabbit from Nazi forces and ended with a surprise reveal that Roger’s father is Bugs Bunny. For obvious reasons, the project was scrapped, only to be resurrected in the late ‘90s. Spielberg had the Nazi stuff dropped and the plot was changed to cover Roger Rabbit’s rise to fame on Broadway and in Hollywood, now called Who Discovered Roger Rabbit? This new proposed version was to feature a mix of CGI, live-action, and traditional animation, but the budget quickly ballooned out of control and this incarnation was called off, as well. News came in 2009 that Robert Zemeckis was working on another sequel idea, so Roger Rabbit still isn’t safe from franchise-dom.
Right after the Ivan Reitman-directed, Arnold Schwarzenegger-Danny DeVito vehicle Twins became a big hit, Universal began eyeing a sequel. The movie would have been called Triplets and Roseanne Barr, still in the brief two-year window in the late ‘80s where she was allowed to be in movies, was the top choice for the third sibling. This one was shot down fairly quickly, as it should have been, and never even made it to the script stage.
4. Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian
A script for a Beetlejuice sequel was written in the early ‘90s that involved the Deets family building a resort in Hawaii that happens to be on top of a burial ground. Beetlejuice would return to help the Deets scare off ghosts and participate in a surfing competition. Ugh. It sounds more like an episode of the animated series than a worthy film sequel. Tim Burton was interested in returning to the director’s chair, but he soon became busy with other projects. Michael Keaton was still interested when asked as recently as 2005, but no current plans exist to bring Beetlejuice back to the screen.
5. Good Morning, Chicago
Touchstone Pictures commissioned a sequel be written to the Robin Williams vehicle Good Morning, Vietnam after that film became a hit in 1989. The original’s director, Barry Levinson was set to return, along with Williams, until the creative team decided the project wasn’t worth pursuing. This planned sequel would have involved Williams’s rambunctious DJ character doing his thing during the turbulent 1968 Democratic National Convention. This sounds like one of the better ideas on this list and an interesting place to take Robin Williams’s character, but Good Morning, Vietnam tells a complete story in its own right and doesn’t really demand a sequel.
6. Ghostbusters III: Hellbent
Dan Aykroyd wrote the script for Ghostbusters III: Hellbent in the late ‘90s, and the planned sequel involved the Ghostbusters being transported to a version of Hell that resembles Manhattan. Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, and Chris Farley were widely-rumored to make up the new batch of Ghostbusters recruits, but plans fell through and this particular idea was scrapped. While Ghostbusters III is still in development, pending Bill Murray’s approval, the current incarnation is presumably different than Aykroyd’s ‘90s idea. Sending the Ghostbusters to Hell sounds like it could be interesting (at least it’s a better concept for a movie than evil slime creeping up from the Earth and stealing Dana Barrett’s baby). Many of the ideas for Hellbent were incorporated into the recent multi-platform Ghostbusters video game.
7. Blue Streak 2
It may not be saying a lot, but Blue Streak is one of Martin Lawrence’s better films and one more worthy of sequel-dom than, say, Big Momma’s House. Columbia Pictures was so satisfied with the box office returns on the first installment that they had a script written for a sequel, which involved Martin Lawrence pretending to be a spy. The original’s director Les Mayfield was set to return for Blue Streak 2, along with Lawrence, and production was set to start up in 2001. For whatever reason, plans were called off before production ever began
Sure, Blue Streak 2 seems unnecessary, but what Martin Lawrence movie doesn’t? At least it makes more sense than making a Black Knight 2.
8. Seriously Dude, Where’s My Car?
A Dude, Where’s My Car? sequel was in development for years but never came to fruition. The first movie was a breakthrough role for Ashton Kutcher, allowing him to transition from That ‘70s Show to movie stardom. The sequel was ramping up towards production eyeing a start date in 2003, but Kutcher shot the idea down before filming began. Dude, Where’s My Car? lives on in spirit, though, as Todd Phillips has gotten a lot of mileage out of the original’s “What happened last night?” formula, employing the premise to greater success in his Hangover series.
9. Mrs. Doubtfire 2
20th Century Fox started putting together a Mrs. Doubtfire sequel in 2003, ten years after the release of the original, and talk show host/comedian Bonnie Hunt was brought in to write the script. Robin Williams was on board initially, but he dropped out in 2006, expressing dissatisfaction with the screenplay. The sequel was to involve Williams’s character donning the Mrs. Doubtfire disguise to watch after his daughter while she’s away at college. While Mrs. Doubtfire is one of Robin Williams’s best movies, it really seems like he’s protecting himself as well as us here.
10. Office Space 2
While Mike Judge’s workplace comedy Office Space is now a beloved cult classic that’s achieved a great deal of success, the movie was a box office disappointment upon its initial release. When Office Space became a hit on home video and cable years later, Fox came to Mike Judge wanting to make a sequel, but Judge’s experiences with the original film’s failure were so frustrating that he’s avoided a second outing.
Mike Judge probably made the right call here, even though an Office Space sequel could have boosted his movie career. Most of Judge’s success has been in television with shows like King of the Hill and Beavis and Butt-head, while his films have had poor commercial performances - at least at first. Office Space and Idiocracy both became successes long after they were in theaters, as botched marketing jobs by the studio ruined their commercial prospects. With Office Space 2, Judge would have had a built-in audience of fans of the first movie, and this could have been the first film of his to be a commercial hit upon its initial release, guaranteeing him more creative control over his projects in the future and making it easier for him to get his stuff made. If Office Space 2 had been a hit sometime around 2001-2004 when it would have likely been produced if Judge said yes, Fox might have actually given him the budget he wanted to make Idiocracy, granted the film a wider release, and bothered to market it.
The first Office Space tells a complete and finite story, and it might have been a stretch to believe Peter Gibbons would ever return to the workplace; but if Mike Judge were writing and directing again, I’m sure he would have come up with something that wasn’t just a carbon copy of the first film.
11. Elf 2 and Old School Dos
Although he’s been trying to push Anchorman 2 into development with Adam McKay, Will Ferrell has thus far not participated in any sequel to one of his own films. Elf and Old School have been amongst those offered to Ferrell, but he’s turned them both down. He said ‘no’ to $29 million to star in the Elf sequel, and the studio hasn’t yet tried to pull a Son of the Mask and proceed with a different actor in his place. Ferrell had this to say about his anti-sequel stance:
“I remember asking myself: could I withstand the criticism when it’s bad and they say, ‘He did the sequel for the money?’ I decided I wouldn’t be able to. I didn’t want to wander into an area that could erase all the good work I’ve done — but you watch, I’ll do some sequel in the future that’s crap.”
Scot Armstrong wrote a script for the Old School sequel, titled Old School Dos, but Ferrell and co-star Vince Vaughn both shot it down. It would involve the guys reuniting for Spring Break in Daytona Beach. Ferrell spoke highly of the sequel’s script, though, saying:
“I read [the script]. Some super funny set pieces, but I don’t know. I think Vince [Vaughn] had the same reaction. We’re just kind of doing the same thing again. It was like us going to Spring Break, but we’ve got to find this guy who’s the head of a fraternity. Once again, funny things but it’s just us once again back in a fraternity setting. It just felt like it was repeating. But watch, I’m over thinking it.”
Both the Elf and Old School sequels would likely be big hits for Will Ferrell as the originals are still well-regarded today. These successes would have allowed Ferrell more leeway to get his own projects made and helped him to weather the box office failures of Land of the Lost and Semi-Pro, but Ferrell’s reluctance to produce a shoddy sequel is admirable. We’ve all strolled through the local Cineplex, wondering “Who asked for this?” when giant posters for undeserved sequels pop up (cough, cough, Deuce Bigelow). While Ferrell feels a second Old School wouldn’t be a good move for himself, Old School Dos is just about the only way Luke Wilson’s going to get to star in a major movie ever again after a recent string of flops. He seems to be the one hurt most by Ferrell’s integrity.
12. Wild Hogs 2: Bachelor Ride
When Wild Hogs became the highest grossing live-action comedy of 2007, it should have struck fear into the hearts of all comedy fans. 2007 was by all means a very good year for film comedy, seeing the release of Knocked Up, Hot Fuzz, Superbad, Walk Hard, and Juno. It’s a little distressing to think that Wild Hogs bested all of these much-more worthy comedies. Of course, there’s the box office conspiracy theory that Wild Hogs only did so well because teenagers were buying tickets to it so they could sneak into the R-rated flick 300, but it still sickens me to think about how much money Wild Hogs made and the impact it could have had on comedy.
It seems like the success of Wild Hogs would have inspired a whole slew of similar movies but only two were greenlit before studios realized the movie’s success was a fluke: the John Travolta/Robin Williams starrer Old Dogs and Wild Hogs 2: Bachelor Ride, which would have transported the action to Europe for William H. Macy’s bachelor party. When Old Dogs bombed, WH2 — as fans were calling it — was called off, and comedy nerds rejoiced.
13. The Love Guru 2 and 3
It’s not a surprise that Mike Myers was hoping for The Love Guru to be his next Wayne’s World or Austin Powers. Sure, the film lacked a lot of the appeal of those earlier characters, but it just felt like a movie that was intended to be the start of a film series. Myers began discussing sequels with the studio more than year before production on The Love Guru began. You read that right. Sequels, plural. Not just one sequel, more than one of them.
If The Love Guru had been a hit, we would likely be seeing a second and third installment pop up in theaters around this time. Fans would be repeating whatever Mike Myers’s characters catchphrases were, in an Indian accent. Love Guru backpacks, action figures, lunchboxes, Halloween costumes. Mike Myers’s smiling faux-Indian face on merchandise everywhere, Hell on Earth.
Instead, Mike Myers seems to have grown more reclusive since the film’s failure. The only movie parts he’s had in the last three years have been popping up in a bit role in Inglourious Basterds and voicing the title character in the fourth Shrek installment. A hypothetical lucrative Love Guru franchise would have forced Myers to leave his mansion to film sequels and possibly given his career the momentum to allow him to make an Austin Powers 4.
14. School of Rock 2: America Rocks
A sequel to School of Rock was in the works back in 2008, with key players Jack Black, director Richard Linklater, and writer Mike White set to return. Under the cringe-inducingly jingoistic title School of Rock 2: America Rocks, White completed a draft of the script, in which Jack Black “leads a bunch of summer school students on a cross-country field trip to explore the history of rock.” Plans never came together and Richard Linklater recently told the press, “”I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. Never say never but currently, no. It never seemed to gel.” Linklater and Black did reunite, though, for the two’s most recent project, a dark comedy called Bernie, which will be released later this year.
15. The Naked Gun 4: The Rhythm of Evil
The script for a fourth Naked Gun installment was completed last year and was reportedly quite funny, but Paramount scrapped the project over financial issues. The studio had found the perfect writer for the job, too, in Alan Spencer, creator of Sledge Hammer! Spencer’s script was said to be very good, and this would have been the perfect career capper for Leslie Nielsen, but it never came to be. The sequel script involved Nielsen’s Frank Drebin returning to duty to oversee the new Police Squad and train a fresh rookie cop.
16. Anchorman 2
The entire original gang was ready to sequelize Anchorman back in 2010, but Paramount, the studio that holds the rights to the franchise is standing in the way. Since Steve Carell and Paul Rudd have become big stars since Anchorman, you’d think it would be hard to get the budget under control; but everyone involved has agreed to take pay cuts. Paramount still won’t budge, with Ferrell claiming the studio said, “We’ve run the numbers and it’s not a good fit.” There’s still a chance that the execs at Paramount will come to their senses, but at things stand now, they hold the rights to Anchorman and don’t have any interest in a sequel.
Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles who has his fingers crossed for Norbit 2.