Monday Morning Critic – Fast & Furious 6 And The Police Academy Rule Of Franchise Quality

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This had to be one of the most depressing weekends for a film buff. The one film that got insanely good ratings and should’ve been in every theatre in the country was Before Midnight, which might wind up being one of the best films of 2013 when all is said and done. But what did get into theatres this weekend, combining to cross $140 million domestically?

The Hangover Part 3 and the sixth film in the Fast and Furious franchise.

There’s a silver lining to it, at least: no more Hangover films, at least for the foreseeable future. Everyone involved in it has said it’s a send off and the film’s soft opening, both domestic and international, seems to indicate fans are on board with that idea as well. Barely breaking $40 million for its opening weekend, less than the original and half of the sequel, it’ll have to clear about $200 million to recoup its budget (not including marketing, publicity and advertising costs). With a soft opening like $40 million that’s a hard number to make up, especially with foreign grosses for R-rated comedies not being all that strong. It’ll probably hit $100 million domestically and maybe half that overseas, making it a success and a money maker but marginally so. It’ll need strong DVD sales to do so, of course, but it’s only appropriate that the film franchise limps to the end.

The fact that the latest Fast and Furious film, dubbed Fast & Furious 6, wound up with its biggest opening on its sixth entry is fairly remarkable. When the original cast has returned the film’s grosses have gone up with each film; 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift were both disappointments and didn’t gross as well because the film franchise somehow works when the original cast is there on a purely fiscal level. The film’s gross more when it’s Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and gang all together. Even Dwayne “The Rock” has been a welcome addition of sorts.

If we want to use a historical parallel we’re something wholly unique and original. Usually franchises slow down and die by a sixth film; it’s exceptionally rare for a non-porn film to hit this many films and still be successful. Normally we see something like Leprechaun or Bring it on, which wound up with a ton of movies in the franchise but only a couple people have seen.

In fact outside of the original films in both of those franchises I imagine 99% of people wouldn’t realize they made sequels to any of them.

Which is why Fast & Furious fascinates me on any number of levels. The films are a series of ridiculously awful action films, letting us know what would’ve happened if they opted to make sequels to Point Break. All have been fairly awful in quality but there’s an endearing quality to the madness; it’s like watching what would’ve happened if Police Academy had been able to maintain instead of diminish.

Police Academy is the ultimate case of diminishing returns when it comes to franchises and usually nearly every franchise follows suit. I call it the “Police Academy Rule,” actually, and it’s pretty simple. The longer your franchise goes the odds are it’s going to decline in quality to the point where once you’ve hit four films you’re just churning out crap. The fact that Fast 6 somehow managed to still be entertaining, and not a gigantic pile of feces, is somehow shocking.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge


This Week’s DVD – Police Academy

If you can make a joke about the Blue Oyster Bar, named an animal Tackleberry or scream “MAHONEY” at some point you’ve seen and adored Police Academy, a staple of cable television from the 90s forward and a really funny film. It’s also memorable because there’ve been a ton of sequels, mainly because Steve Guttenberg may or may not have needed money to finance his hooker killing safari.

It’s a simple premise. An unnamed American city opts to open up its Police Academy to anyone and everyone who can make it, thus leading to a group of interesting people joining up. One of them is Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg), a devil may care rascal who’s thrown into it instead of jail by a family friend/police captain. He can’t quit, either, or he’s going to county lockup. Shenanigans ensue as he interacts with the cast of characters en route to trying to be thrown out of there. Along the way he learns that being a cop may not be the worst thing in the world.

The film’s a staple because it’s back when Hollywood could still make a good R-rated comedy without overdoing it on the R-rated aspect. This is a good screwball comedy, with enough nudity and foul language to earn an R-rating in today’s MPAA, without getting so blue it becomes unnecessary. The sequels may have declined significantly but the original is worth seeking out.


What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

After Earth – Will Smith and one of his untalented kids crash land on Earth, which wants to kill them.

Skip It – Will Smith is usually bankable but this is a film pushing one of his worthless, untalented children as a star instead of him. Yeah, not a good sign.

Now You See Me – A bunch of street magician types pull of a heist or something during their big Vegas show.

See It – Granted the cinematic version of a magician and the real magic man are very different things but so far it looks interesting. Plus it has James Franco’s little brother: all the smugness and some talent to boot.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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