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A Movie Mr. Furley Would Love: The Three-Quel February 22, 2007

Posted by doctorolove in Movies, Pop Culture Rants.

Threesomes can be good. The Three Stooges. Early anti-establishment Crosby, Stills and Nash. Actual threesomes.

And threesomes can be bad. Britney, Paris and Lindsay. Old, decrepit semen factory Crosby, Stills and Nash. The 1994 movie Threesome (Any time you attempt to make a statement about modern relationships, if you have a Baldwin in the film, all your good work is negated.)

This summer, we will be inundated with threesomes. No fewer than 758 “three-quels” will be unleashed this summer. They will be front and center each week. They will creep up upon like a bad rash. And like a bad rash, they can be just as uncomfortable and unnecessary.

A “three-quel” is a growing genre of movies. As more and more writers and directors phone it in, the dearth of original ideas in Hollywood is shrinking faster than the idea of “rehab” for young starlets. It’s like the Mad Libs of movies: take a scenario and fill in the blanks with your characters. Add a wrinkle or two and voila: instant box office. Or is it?

Coincidentally, keeping with the theme of three, there are three types of movie “three-quels.” Each has it’s pros and its’ cons and each can be successful in their own rights. But “three-quels” have the greatest chance of becoming another Ishtar. There is a reason that every cop movie or superhero doesn’t get one more story told about them (Aren’t you glad we didn’t get V.I. Warshawski 3: More-Shawski!) Hollywood has to be careful. Because the following types of films can turn on you faster than a bran muffin, two cups of coffee and last night’s Del Taco

TYPE 1: The Continuation Three-quel (or ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING…AND NEW GUEST STARS)

This summers entry: Rush Hour 3

When a film does well monetarily or the characters resonate with us all, we want to see them again. They’re like family (at least like that creepy uncle whose “noogies” always lasted too long.) Be they the wisecracking cop team or the dapper secret agent, we know we’d like to see them do it all again. Sequels are pretty easy to get nowadays. Heck, if a film makes anywhere close to its’ budget, a sequel is as inevitable as a Brangelina photo in US Weekly. And while the sequels often get made, few three-quels are made. Why? Because like dark chocolate…the first piece is great, the second piece is bitter and the third may make you a little sick.

After exhausting the sequel rules in the first one (new guest stars, bigger chase scenes), in order to make the third installment bigger, you have to take it over the top. Now where the characters were relatable, they are attempting feats that would make Evel Knievel say, “Naw, not for me.” Suddenly, everything seems fake and overdone. You can call out the punny and pithy wisecracks the cops say when they throw a felon through a plate glass window at a Fast Food joint (“I guess this’ll be take out, huh?”) When the wall is broken, what once was joyous, is now an excuse to take your money. Like the IRS (Hey, they had a good plan…once upon a time.)

The only way you can make one of these succeed is to give it a re-imagining. Maybe it’s the return of the villain or nemesis from the first. Maybe you delve a little in the past (Ed. Note: A prequel of a three-quel is a copout and is not part of the original story…It makes the second the third and it just starts a whole paradoxical thing that soon unravels time and space). And please make sure you have a good story. Keep the rules and characters consistent. Your character drank and hated women in the third one? Keep him drunk and bitter. Copping out can sink a three-quel faster than a German torpedo. Guest stars can add much needed life to your three-quel, but make sure they’re not gimmicky. We loved your characters in the first place: make their new friends just as interesting and you might get a fourth.


This summers entry: Pirates of The Caribbean 3

When you get the chance to make the sequel, it is, more often than not because you made an amazing first film. And most people who create characters that resonate do love them and know they have a larger story to tell. The world you have created is still off balance and you need to tell a larger story that like Lays Potato Chips, can’t be completed in just one film. So we are given the completion three-quel. We knew it was coming, thanks to a well placed cliffhanger. A cliffhanger is like leaving something over at your boyfriends house: Sure, you may never see it again, but there’s always the excuse to go back.

The danger with these is of course, making a sub par sequel that totally makes the third anti-climactic. If you fail with the sequel, people have probably already checked out by the time the person is hanging on a cliff and the credits roll. Since these films are often made simultaneously with the second, it’s hard to not keep a consistent universe. But be careful! The sequel rule claims you have to kill somebody off in the second film. Make sure it’s not a character that provides the cornerstone to your film. That lovable second banana may have been the reason for your success and if he’s dead in the “three-quel,” you just might be screwed cubed.

And don’t get greedy. You are not guaranteed another go around, so don’t bait us with a possible fourth film. Wrap everything up nicely. If your characters are still strong (or even alive), we’ll give you another chance. Nothing hurts America more than assuming we’ll see you again. Don’t play on our sensibilities. (We may be slow, but, heck, even we didn’t like Cop Rock!) Complete your trilogy and we’ll let you know if you should come back again. It may take us twenty years, but, hey, we’re busy. We have that whole global warming thing to deal with.

TYPE 3: The Superhero Three-Quel (or “DUDE, I AM SO THERE…WE’LL TAKE MY MOM’S SENTRA three-quel)

This summers entry: Spiderman 3

The Superhero sequel. It excites fanboys across the planet. It burns up the Internet with rumor and conjecture. The plot is revealed eight moths before by some nerdy catering who steals the script from its’ secure location. The hype alone should drown this film. Yet they too can succeed..provided you don’t hit any of the major snags.

First, this is not a completion or a continuation type of film. Sure, it has those elements, but if you’re a big enough comic book icon to garner a third, you have the stories already written for you. This is an attempt to get all those great villains and side characters that made you big into the film. And therein lies the major pitfall. First, don’t change actors midstream. There is a reason your adaptation was successful and it wasn’t your pitch perfect direction. It was because we believed your actors fit in the comic personae you drafted them for. Giving us a new face makes us all grumble.

And be careful of your new casting of villains. Every comic book geek has their own vision of who should play this guy or that guy. You’ll probably never get it right enough for everyone, but don’t go off the reservation. Keep it simple. Again, gimmicks are just that: gimmicks. If I want a gimmick, I’ll plunk down five bucks to see a magic and burlesque show at my local library.

With CGI abilities expanding faster than the line forms to get the new Raffi tape, each film can be better visually than the preceding one. It offers you new ideas ad sequences that were easily drawn by artists, but never before able in film. But don’t shoot your load. We still love our heroes because of their story. Cirque du Soliel has few words for a reason, n’est-pas?

So, this summer, when you mortgage your house to buy your ticket, think about what you’re seeing. Because while the reward may be great, it could be bad down at their rendezvous. Three’s Company?



1. flutieman07 - February 22, 2007

Great post!

2. doctorolove - February 22, 2007

Thanks Flutieman!

3. Ratboy - March 5, 2007

My favorite 3-Quel: The return visit to the Comode after a three course helping from Katz’s deli— Oy! The Pastrami!

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