December 9, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
A couple of weeks ago, Sarah Jessica Parker was asked about The Carrie Diaries, a television series that goes back in time, and follows Parker's Sex and the City character, Carrie Bradshaw, through her junior year of high school.
Parker didn't exactly embrace her "past."
"You know, I think it's one of those tests of your generosity," Parker told a reporter. "She (actress AnnSophia Robb) is a lovely girl and I want her to feel good about it, but it's odd."
Forget that hullabaloo about the chicken and the egg; nowadays when people bicker over what came first, they are probably discussing the plotlines of prequels. Specifically, TV shows like Bates Motel, which debuted on A&E on March 18 and tells the story of a young Norman Bates, before he got his degree in Psycho-logy. Or movies like The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey -- the first of three films that will lay the groundwork for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. Or Disney's new blockbuster, Oz the Great and Powerful, which is set 20 munchkin years before its 1939 counterpart, The Wizard of Oz.
Not everyone is a fan of the genre, mind you. In an article entitled Hollywood Trends that Need to End, an American film critic wrote, "Prequels can't give us anything useful in terms of entertainment. If we already know what the character is... going to be doing in the future, then there's not much chance for either suspense or surprise in a prequel."
"The reason most prequels suck is they aim to answer a question nobody asked," says Kenton Larsen, an instructor at Red River College who opines about pop culture on his blog, Kenton's Infotainment Scan (www.kentonlarsen.com). "Ever wonder who built C-3P0? Nope, I never did. And when I found out it was a six-year-old Anakin Skywalker, I know why I never wondered."
When pressed, Larsen lists 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes and 1974's The Godfather Part II as prequels that didn't sully the brand they built upon.
"Rise... gave us a new take on the classic movie. When the ape said, 'No,' it transcended the original into something even better," Larsen says. "And The Godfather Part II featured Robert De Niro, Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola at the height of their artistic powers. So there were some great thrills and enough mystery left over when the smoke cleared."
Of course, not every prequel can be as entertaining as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, or as hirsute as X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But before we continue with a rundown of prequels the world probably could have lived without, Larsen would like to clarify one point he made in regards to the Star Wars prequels, commonly referred to as Episodes I, II and III.
"Star Wars is like sex," Larsen lectures. "Even bad Star Wars is still pretty good."
Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (2003)
"Before the first movie there was high school" is the tag line for Dumb and Dumberer, a comedy that introduces moviegoers to Dumb and Dumber's Lloyd Christmas (Eric Christian Olsen) and Harry Dunne (Derek Richardson), eight years before they turn into Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. Oops: although Dumb and Dumberer -- which was nominated for three Razzies, including Worst Sequel or Prequel -- is set in 1986, its soundtrack includes Vanilla Ice's Ice Ice Baby, a tune that wasn't foisted upon an unsuspecting public until 1990.
Clifford's Puppy Days (2003)
Love Makes Little Things Grow was the theme song for Clifford's Puppy Days, a PBS program about Clifford, a wee, red puppy who is the runt of the litter. The show is set a year or so prior to Clifford the Big Red Dog (2000-03), an animated series about a fully mature mutt -- voiced by the late John Ritter -- who stands eight metres tall.
Young Hercules (1998-99)
Fifteen years before Ryan Gosling was named People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive, the London, Ont., native was cast as a muscle-bound heartthrob in Young Hercules. The goings-on in Young Hercules take place a decade or so before Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, a syndicated program that aired for six seasons, beginning in 1995. Granted, any timeline involving the son of Zeus is pretty much hit or myth; depending on whom you believe, Hercules was either 37 or 137, when he died.
Missing in Action 2: The Beginning (1985)
In the first Missing in Action flick, we meet James Braddock (Chuck Norris), a U.S. colonel who is commissioned to Ho Chi Minh City to free a band of long-forgotten, American POWs. In the prequel -- set 10 years before MIA -- we find out why Braddock, again played by Norris, was the right man for the job. Missing in Action 2 tells the story of Braddock's days as a prisoner of war, after he was captured by the Viet Cong in the early 1970s. (Chuck Norris fact: Chuck Norris once shot down a fighter plane with his finger, by yelling, "Bang!")
Often times it's best to leave well enough alone. The western TV series Bonanza, starring Ottawa-born Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright, ran for 14 seasons on NBC and was ranked No. 43 on TV Guide's list of the greatest shows of all time. Ponderosa -- a program that attempted to explain how Ben and his sons Adam, Little Joe and Hoss found themselves on a parcel of land near Lake Tahoe - was cancelled after just 20 episodes.
Amityville II: The Possession (1982)
And they say it's tough to sell a house with a pool! In the supernatural thriller The Amityville Horror (1979), the Lutz family moves into an abode where, 12 months earlier, five members of the Montelli family were viciously murdered. Amityville II: The Possession fills in the blanks about the killings, which were carried out by Mr. and Mrs. Montelli's eldest son, Sonny. We're not in the habit of defending homicidal maniacs, but if you're a parent who can't come up with a more creative name for your son than Sonny, perhaps you deserve what you get.
Butch and Sundance: The Early Years (1979)
Zero thumbs up. Roger Ebert didn't pull any punches after Butch and Sundance: The Early Years hit theatres. "If events of crucial interest had really happened to Butch and Sundance in the early days, either (a) they would have been included in the original movie or (b) the present film would not have waited... 10 years to be made." This might explain things: after the movie came out, director Richard Lester admitted to never having seen 1969's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. No word if Lester knew the lyrics to Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.
The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000)
What happens in Rock Vegas stays in Rock Vegas. In a prequel based on characters from the Hanna-Barbera cartoon -- and the 1994 live-action film The Flintstones -- best buds Fred Flintstone (Mark Addy) and Barney Rubble (Stephen Baldwin) head to a Stone Age Sin City with their girlfriends, Wilma Slaghoople (Kristen Johnston) and Betty O'Shale (Jane Krakowski). Fred almost loses Wilma to a casino owner named Chip Rockefeller but -- surprise, surprise -- the pair eventually kiss and make up. We didn't stay awake long enough to see Fred and Wilma walk down the aisle at the Rock Vegas Chapel of Love, but we're guessing the vows went something like this:
Minister: "Do you, Fred, take Wilma to be your lawfully wedded wife?" Fred: "I yabba dabba do."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 23, 2013 E1