Film is an art, but movies are a business. That means many of them are made not for the sake of expressing an artistic idea, but for the sole purpose of making money. That’s certainly the case with most direct-to-video sequels of popular movies. These rushed releases are often notorious for their slapdash quality and meager budgets that give the filmmakers only the bare minimum to recreate the magic of a big-screen hit. Most fail to do so, but make money from the movie sales anyway, cashing in on a popular title without honoring its overall spirit.
These are 10 of the worst offenders in the long history of lackluster straight-to-video sequels.
1. Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World
Beauty and the Beast is a beautifully animated, skillful retelling of a classic fairytale, featuring many of Disney’s most inspired songs and characters. Its second direct-to-video sequel is a lazy compilation of TV spinoff material that is totally lacking in the charm or, ahem, beauty of the original. The four segments that make up this so-called film are completely disconnected from one another, horribly animated, and so dull they’ll even bore most toddlers.
2. The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride
Unlike Belle’s Magical World, The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride feels something like an honest attempt to live up to the high quality of the original Disney smash. Unfortunately, the sequel is still thwarted by bored voice-acting, mediocre animation, and a series of songs far lacking the strength of the original soundtrack that was penned by Hans Zimmer, Tim Rice, and Elton John.
Even when Disney tries a little harder on one of their many direct-to-video sequels, the results fall far short of the expectations stoked by the original film.
3. Aladdin and the King of Thieves
Disney paid big bucks to secure Robin Williams for Aladdin, wherein the comic’s performance as the Genie occasionally stole the film from its titular star. In Aladdin and the King of Thieves, he steals it entirely, distracting from the uninteresting treasure hunt plot with a manic series of modern day impressions that are entertaining on their own, but only serve to highlight the energy lacking in the rest of the film.
I suppose the filmmakers hoped Williams’ presence might be enough to save the film from its mediocre songs and dialogue.
4. S. Darko
Donnie Darko is half teen film and half heady sci-fi, horror mind bender, but it manages to entertain and provoke thought despite this difficult genre balancing act. Its direct-to-video sequel completely misses the mark in trying to recreate that magic, turning the attention to Donnie’s sister Samantha for a retread of the original’s menacing atmosphere without any clear logic or mystery to hold everything together.
5. American Psycho II: All American Girl
The Christian Bale-starring adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ darkly comedic satire, American Psycho, earned a decent amount of money and critical acclaim, so Lionsgate soon rebranded an unrelated script about an aspiring sociopathic FBI agent as a direct-to-video sequel. Despite a brief cameo from the original’s main character, Patrick Bateman, American Psycho II is little more than a lousy murderous thriller full of hackneyed twists and uninteresting characters.
6. Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation
Much like Donnie Darko, it would seem all but impossible to recreate the precise tone of the original Starship Troopers without its director — in this case, experienced provocateur and subtle satirist, Paul Verhoeven — but that didn’t stop the studio from trying anyway. Returning writer Edward Neumeier pens an unfortunately bland script about a group of soldiers confined to a single room and surrounded by hordes of bug enemies.
The film deals primarily in action cliches and low-rent cinematography, rather than the sharp satire of militarism found in the original.
7. From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money
The first From Dusk Till Dawn — a Tarantino-penned (and starring) dark crime caper that morphs suddenly into a vampire splatter flick — is, if nothing else, original. The same cannot be said for its first sequel, where the compelling characters and unmistakable dialogue are totally lost, replaced with a thin plot that ultimately amounts to “more people keep turning into vampires” and a series of horror-western-style shootouts, each just a little less original than the last.
8. Mean Girls 2
Again, how does one recreate the unlikely magic of a movie such as Mean Girls? Without Tina Fey to lend the movie its distinctively self-aware voice and satire, this ABC Original amounts to little more than a far cheaper, worse-acted remake of the original film that indulges in far more teen movie cliches, with far less self-awareness.
9. The Fox and the Hound 2
The Fox and the Hound is one of the bleakest, and maybe greatest, Disney movies, telling what is essentially the story of two friends torn apart and pitted against each other by societal prejudices. There’s no real happy ending to the story, but its sequel does its best to invent one anyway. It presumably takes place before that prejudicial tearing apart, when Copper starts spending time with a band he joins and Tod gets sorta jealous.
That’s the conflict, cutesy and simple and ending on a happy note. Except this story doesn’t have a happy ending, and trying to give it one kinda ruins the whole point.
10. Darkman II: The Return of Durant
The first Darkman was a stylish and effective dark superhero flick featuring a pre-Spider-Man Sam Raimi and a pre-Schindler’s List Liam Neeson, who were both working at the top of their game. Its direct-to-video sequel features a lot of weak action scenes and a guy named Arnold Vosloo doing a really corny Darkman voice.
The lacking budget really shows in the production quality, so the most that can be said of Darkman II is that it’s not terrible. In the dire world of direct-to-video releases, that in itself can be an achievement.
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