Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sequels and the law of diminishing returns

It is a plain fact that the sequel to a movie is never as good as the original (notable exceptions being, by and large, book adaptations). But the Hollywood Movie Machine is in love with repeating formulas, which is much easier and safer than trying creative ideas. Or maybe it's us, too willing to buy tickets to the same shit in a different pile.

Take The Cutting Edge - the quintessential romantic comedy. A brutish young man and a frigid young woman are thrown together by circumstance and shared ambition. Sparks and witty banter fly to a early 90's soundtrack. Misunderstandings, rivalry, and drunken confessions all culminate in that one perfect moment - the music crescendos and they kiss. Roll credits.

It's schmaltz, pure and simple. But it's just so good. The story is alchemical, greater than the sum of its parts. If you don't like this movie, you're missing an X chromosome. Or a soul.

"You are an immature asshole of the lowest order. "
She so wants him.

You think to yourself, The Cutting Edge seems bad but is actually good - it's sequels seem much worse and should, by extension, be better! Sadly, this is not the case. ABC Family has been showing all three Edges back to back - the original, Going for the Gold and Chasing the Dream. And like some sort of exquisite train wreck, I can't turn away.

Going for the Gold tries to follow the pattern of the original as closely as possible. Doug's hockey career is replaced by Alex's surfing fame. Jacki (Doug and Kate's daughter) is just as talented and insufferable as young Kate. Even key scenes are repeated, like that embarrassing hotel room scene with Alex's fiancee Heidi taking the place of Lorie Peckarovski. It's like someone scarfed down the original movie, and vomited up Going for the Gold. No wonder D.B. Sweeney and Moira Kelly couldn't be convinced to reprise their roles.

Of course, they go right for the "ice princess" pun
the original worked so hard to avoid.

Chasing the Dream tries to shake things up - this time, the figure skater is a man (Zack) and the hockey player is a woman (Alexandra). And she's Latina! Can't go wrong with an ethnic mismatch comedy. But again, Chasing the Dream just rehashes the original - down to the running gag of "toe pick!" and the use of The Pamchenko Twist. Jacki (Christy Carlson Romano) appears as Zack and Alexandra's coach, and tries desperately to lend the movie some thin veneer of authenticity. Needless to say, she fails.

Why, God? Why?

The best Edge sequel is not actually a sequel at all, but a satire: Blades of Glory - the bromantic comedy starring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder as the first male/male figure skating team. It doesn't recycle the plot of the original, it lampoons it to hilarious effect. If you haven't seen it, run - don't walk - to add it to your Netflix queue.

Finally, a movie worthy of The Cutting Edge legacy.

No comments: