Is it always best to leave a great movie alone?
This week, director Danny Boyle and returning stars Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Ewen Bremner, Kelly Macdonald and Jonny Lee Miller take the perhaps foolhardy step back into the world of Scottish heroin addicts with “T2 Trainspotting,” a 20-years-later sequel to 1996’s still excellent “Trainspotting.” While the return of the original creative team and advance word suggests that there’s room to hope this will turn out to be more than a wan retread, making us wish we’d never seen it stomp all over our fond memories of the first one, a look back at similarly long-delayed movie sequels shows that, sometimes, it’s best to move on.
Watch the “T2: Trainspotting 2” Trailer
Under the definition of unnecessary, director John Landis and star/co-writer Dan Aykroyd decided that the world needed another visit with Elwood Blues, with a trio of new “brothers” (John Goodman, Joe Morton, a little kid) piling up to take the place of Aykroyd’s irreplaceable late pal John Belushi. Gassy action, tired-looking blues stars in cameos and all the comedic overkill of the original, minus the comedy, plus a helping of racial tone-deafness.
Look, recent piloting mishaps aside, Harrison Ford still looks like he could strap on Indy’s bullwhip and get down to Nazi-punching. But, even with Steven Spielberg back in the director’s chair, this silliest entry in the franchise is best remembered for a pivotal plot device —”nuke the fridge” — edging out “jump the shark” as a synonym for “this series is officially out of ideas.”
Peter Bogdanovich’s adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s “The Last Picture Show” is a starkly moving, black-and-white evocation of the end of youth, of the small town way of life and of the magic of the movies. “Texasville” is a rambunctious, innocuous paean to mellowing with age. It’s a fine little movie, especially as it reunites original cast members Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Randy Quaid, Timothy Bottoms, Cloris Leachman, and Eileen Brennan. But the original film simply exists in a more enduring cinematic universe.
Two decades after telling us “greed is good,” Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko returns alongside director Oliver Stone to ask, “Is greed really all that good in retrospect?” Bloated and unfocused, the sequel lacks the sledgehammer clarity of Reagan-era avarice-bashing, subbing in a father-daughter estrangement plot and a new naïve would-be Gekko for Douglas to seduce. He’s played by Shia LaBeouf who, suspiciously, was also the weakest new addition to the Indiana Jones franchise. Hmmm.
In what seemed like the mother of all bad ideas (you get it), Anthony Perkins came back to his iconic character Norman Bates, released from the asylum and back in charge of the Bates Motel. While Alfred Hitchcock was long dead in time for the sequel, the result is, implausibly, not a complete waste of time, mainly due to the fact that Perkins, once again, makes the undeniably bananas Norman queasily vulnerable and sympathetic. Perkins made a few more sequels after this, which were the expected travesties.
“I know, let’s take that goofball video game movie that was sort of fun and make it really dour and self-serious!” Our second film on the list starring Jeff Bridges, who should really know better.
Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau return as Oscar and Felix, although they seem a whole lot more like their “Grumpy Old Men” characters this time around. Did you even remember this one existed?
Legendary director Ingmar Bergman, not surprisingly, recognized the devastating dramatic potential of picking up a love story after three decades. Bringing back frequent collaborators and original stars Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson as the same long-wed couple, now nursing another lifetime’s-worth of regrets, along with the ravages of advancing age. Simultaneously life-affirming and soul-crushing. That’s Bergman for you.
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
Friday-Sunday: “Antarctica: Ice and Sky.” The director of “March of the Penguins” returns to the Antarctic and finds it a bit balmier than when he left it. Following French glaciologist Claude Lorius, the film examines man-made climate change.
Friday: “Table 19.” Portland’s own Anna Kendrick heads this comedy about a young woman who bravely attends a wedding, even though her “plus one” has just dumped her. There, she gets stuck at the titular “losers’ table,” along with the very funny likes of Craig Robinson, Lisa Kudrow and June Squibb.