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Sequel Part II: Sequelier

movie marketers can't resist getting cute

I found out this week that sequel to the hilarious Bruce Willis/Matthew Perry comedy The Whole Nine Yards will be entitled The Whole Ten Yards. The film is near enough to release that I've given up hope that it'll change again. (I also found out they made it without Jonathyn Lynn so now I'm worried that the title won't be the worst thing about it.) As soon as I heard it was in production, I feared that something like this would happen, because there's a number in the title. So, I just knew it would be The Whole Ten Yards or The Next Nine Yards or something similarly gag-inducing.

It's like I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, which made no sense because by the time of the events in the story, it was a summer or two later. Or Dumb and Dumberer, which doesn't make sense in any context. The title of the movie isn't where you are supposed to have your fun; that should be in the movie. And whatever happened to the concept of movies, even those in a franchise, standing at least somewhat on their own? Certainly in most cases the audience will be familiar with the whole series. And not everyone can do it the smart way like Charlie's Angels or Lara Croft (or, most commendably, James Bond). (Like the Batman movies, these have titles that stand alone as well as stories that are relatively independent. The Lord of the Rings and Matrix series consist of a single story but separate titles.) But... The Whole Ten Yards??

There is another trend, one I can almost live with: The sub-title. As in Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde or Die Hard 2: Die Harder. (Note that Die Hard with a Vengeance is incorrect, but Die Hard 4: Die Hardest is a return to at least minimal sanity.) These certainly aren't perfect (What's next, Toy Story 2: Toy Storier??) but at least they take the cursory step of not making puns out of the title itself. Consider the Look Who's Talking sequels, Look Who's Talking Too and (realizing they'd painted themselves into a corner with no conceivable homonym for "three") Look Who's Talking Now. Saturday Night Live brilliantly lampooned this lunacy with their sketch, Look Who Else Is Talking Also. Or Grumpier Old Men or Next Friday. (Or the Beethoven movies which used the tired Beethoven's 2nd approach through another pair of direct-to-video sequels before switching to Big Paw: Beethoven 5 just when it would have actually gotten interesting. Maybe Beethoven's estate objected to the sullying of one of his more famous symphonies. Does Beethoven have an estate?) Of course, the sub-title group also includes Urban Legends: Final Cut. Even today, scientists are struggling to determine whether or not this was in fact a sequel to Urban Legends.

I guess I'm hyper-reactive on this score. The same way I am with the "suffixing" that creates terms like "zippergate" or "chocoholic." (Or for that matter "gaydar." Although there are factions that separate that one from the others, I'm not among them.) I just don't see anything wrong with The Whole Nine Yards 2. In fact, I think it would be a funnier title because it represents an obvious wink at "Yeah, we could have done it, but we didn't." (A friend suggested Terminator 2 2 in a similar vein, which from the look of the Terminator 3 story, is probably more appropriate. It appears to be an extension of the second one much more than the resolution of a trilogy that began with the first.)

I suppose my chief frustration is with the assumption that as soon as there's a number in the title, you have to do something cute with it. It took all my willpower not to run off the road and crash through every single bus-stop poster for 102 Dalmatians, believe me. And now we have 2 Fast 2 Furious – god knows where it goes from there. It seems like the kind of trend that can lead to future sequel titles like The Seventh Sense, Thirteen Angry Men and 2 Fast 3 Furious. Maybe it's just me but that's not a future I want to live in.

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