The core component of 21st century filmmaking is focused on producing trilogies, anthologies, sagas and series. Animated films are no exception to this rule and now that Rango, Gnomeo and Juliet and Hop are all bona fide hits, things are looking good for their sequel potential. This week, 20th Century Fox and director Carlos Saldanha (Ice Age) unleash their new CGI series opener Rio and since the movie has all the makings of a full franchise I thought it’d be cool to take a look at a few of the films that I think you’ll see sequels to in the near future.
In Theaters: This Friday, April 15
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Jamie Foxx
As previously stated, Fox believes that this film has the chops to go the distance and I’ve got no reason to doubt that. It’s got a voice cast comprised of popular performers like Hathaway, Eisenberg and Jamie Foxx. It’s got an underused South American setting (the titular Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), though the digital environment surely can’t capture the beauty of the live location. Most importantly, it’s got a vibrantly colorful aesthetic and lots of cute characters that kids will no doubt fall in love with. This is precisely the formula that made DreamWorks’ Madagascar films massive worldwide hits, and so I’d count on getting familiar with Blu the Macaw, Chloe the Goose and all the other birds of Rio.
In Theaters: June 17
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively and Peter Sarsgaard
Superheroes have the benefit of being franchises before they ever hit the big screen. Most comic book characters have been around for ages and have scores of villains and stories for filmmakers to choose from for multiple movies. In the case of Warner Bros. Green Lantern, the studio also has multiple heroes to choose from, as Ryan Reynolds' Hal Jordan isn’t the only Earthling to wield the emerald power ring (actually, he’s not even the first! That honor belongs to Alan Scott, but I digress). If this first film really takes off, the studio can make a trilogy of films focused on Jordan before moving on to Jon Stewart and, finally, Kyle Rayner, who many fans consider to be the best Lantern of all. Adding in the fact that each one of these intergalactic defenders has mutual and exclusive enemies and there’s potential for a dozen Green Lantern films…literally.
In Theaters: July 29
Starring: Neil Patrick Harris, Katy Perry, Jayma Mays
Nostalgia can work wonders for a property’s profitability. With The Smurfs, Columbia Pictures has a globally recognizable brand that appeals to the inner child inside all of us. Not only does the studio have two likable live-action leads in Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays, but an army of lovable little blue people voiced by well-known personalities like George Lopez, Jeff Foxworthy, Katy Perry and John Oliver; all of whom have sizable followings of their own. Throw in the always nice-to-watch New York City setting and a wonderfully rendered villain in Hank Azaria and we could be witnessing the second coming of The Smurfs.
Conan The Barbarian
In Theaters: August 19
Starring: Jason Momoa, Ron Perlman, Stephen Lang
The torture-porn Saw series aside, Lionsgate Films doesn’t contain the wealth of franchises that its larger rivals do, so this movie is a big deal for the company. It’s a property that most associate with its original star (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and without question the biggest hurdle this reboot faces is not having a big-name star wielding the sword of the Cimmerian warrior. But with Marcus Nispel, director of the recent Friday the 13th remake, at the helm, Robert E. Howard’s brutal and unforgiving world should at least raise the interest of most male moviegoers. And having Rose McGowan and Rachel Nichols scantily clad in various scenes can only help…
Cowboys & Aliens
In Theaters: July 29
Starring: Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, Harrison Ford
Everyone involved in this highly-anticipated genre mash-up is used to and comfortable with franchise work (from director Jon Favreau to producers Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard to stars Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford), so I’m sure that Universal Pictures is considering the possibility that, should the film take off at the box-office, Cowboys & Aliens could become another lucrative brand. It literally has everything going for it: the biggest and best cast of the summer directed by one of the most exciting filmmakers in the industry working from a script by some of the most sought after scribes in Hollywood. All the stars lined up in perfect harmony for this picture and though I don’t think a 19th century alien invasion epic needs a sequel, I won’t deny that I’ll be first in line to see one if it’s optioned.
Picking up pretty much where we left off Manny the Mammoth (Ray Romano) Diego the Saber Tooth Tiger (Denis Leary) and Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo) are still palling around together. Goofy Sid feels a little under appreciated sardonic Diego is deathly afraid of water and sad-eyed Manny is still kinda lonely. In fact Manny thinks he may be the last of his species until he meets Ellie (Queen Latifah) a Mammoth who thinks she’s a possum. Don’t ask. Oh there’s also Ellie’s possum buddies Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck) two scrappy fellows up to no good. The more pressing issue however is the fact the polar ice caps are melting and they’ve got to get to high ground before they become fish food (and they are some nasty prehistoric fish too). Thank god for Scrat (Chris Wedge). He’s still chasing the elusive nut--and actually ends up saving the day in more ways than one. How does one become a woolly Mammoth a cockeyed Sloth or a sleek Saber-tooth Tiger? What’s the motivation? For Romano Leguizamo and Leary it’s easy. They just tap into their own inner prehistoric animal because you know we all have one. Actually it amazes me how any chemistry can be developed between the actors voicing animated characters since they don’t record at the same time. Toy Story’s Tom Hanks and Tim Allen ranks as one of the best but these three definitely have it as well; maybe they should think about making a live-action movie together. Queen Latifah also holds her own with the boys while Scott and Peck come off just a wee bit annoying as the mischievous possums. But it’s Chris Wedge’s squeaks grunts and sighs as our favorite antediluvian squirrel Scrat that makes the film--and the desperate little fellow happily gets more air play this time around. Ice Age: The Meltdown suffers from animated sequel-itis--a condition in which a film can’t live up to the certain heartwarming charm the original provided. As funny and delightful as they can be the characters just aren’t fresh and new. A remedy would be to have a better story than the original i.e. Toy Story 2 (still one of the best sequels ever) but Meltdown takes a step backwards relying more on the familiarity of the characters than a cohesive plot. There are definitely highlights: the visuals are crisp and clean and there are few entertaining musical numbers thrown in for our enjoyment including one in which Sid is being idolized by a tribe of miniature sloths and another in which a flock of vultures sing the Oliver! tune “Food glorious food!” while waiting for the movable feast to perish. But overall even though the kids will certainly get a kick out of Meltdown--especially Scrat’s nutty antics--the sequel isn’t quite up to snuff.
In a mechanized world an imaginative young inventor Rodney Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan McGregor) wants to be as famous as his hero the greatest inventor of all time Mr. Bigweld (voiced by Mel Brooks). With his father's "follow your dreams and never give up" ringing in his ears Rodney leaves his small town and sets out to the big bad Robot City to meet his idol and show him his invention. Once there Rodney meets the Rusties a ragtag group of street-smart bots lead by the wacky Fender (voiced by Robin Williams) who know the ropes. Rodney finds out that Bigweld has gone into seclusion and Robot City is being taken over by an ambitious robot named Ratchet (voiced by Greg Kinnear) whose motto is "Why Be You When You Could Be New?" Ratchet soon halts production on parts for the older robots. If the bot folk can't afford the new stuff they are gathered up and sent to an underground chop shop where Rachet's hideous mother Madame Gasket (voiced by Jim Broadbent) melts them down and turns them into metal for new parts. But the evil duo's plan is soon spoiled when Rodney and the Rusties start fixing the older models and decide the must get the reclusive Bigweld back on track to fight back.
How can you go wrong with such a fabulous cast? They all do a great job including McGregor as the earnest Rodney Copperbottom; Brooks as the soft-hearted boss Big Weld; Kinnear as the vain and conniving Rachet; Broadbent as the repugnantly evil Gasket; Jennifer Coolidge as the hilarious and lovable big-booty bot Aunt Fanny; Halle Berry as the smart and seductive executive bot Cappy; and Amanda Bynes as the perky Piper determined to prove herself. But once again voice over veteran Robin Williams steals the show as the broke down and chaotic robot Fender. With his hundreds of voices and impersonations animated films fit the frenetic Williams to a tee making him the undisputed king.
Blue Sky Animation and Oscar-winning director Chris Wedge who brought us the delightful Ice Age are back turning in another stellar animated effort. Robots is rivet-ing transporting the audience into a world of mechanics electronics and robotics. The best scene is when Rodney gets to Robot City and goes on a roller coaster "cab" ride with Fender through a maze of whirligigs and gadgets. Good fun. Added into the mix is a groovin' soundtrack that makes you want to get up and dance with the characters while snickering at the songs' innuendos. Overall Robots incorporates vibrant colors above the ground with dark rusted images below to bring to life this lively world of metal folk.