"Anchorman 2" to "Zoolander 2": the curse of the long-delayed comedy sequel

How the gap between movies doesn't create room for improvement

Released just two weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Zoolander hit cinemas and ended up as a mild but confident success with critics and at the box office.

On a budget of $28 million, the movie made $60.7 worldwide, and currently stands at 64% on Rotten Tomatoes. Overall: good, but not great.

This Friday sees the release of Zoolander No.2, the sequel that writer/director/star Ben Stiller has been talking about since 2008. Perhaps due to the issues of plagiarism leveled against the original - author Bret Easton Ellis apparently took a claim against the movie's producers to the similarities to his book Glamorama - or perhaps because the fashion industry has moved on so far and so quickly in the 15 years since the original, that the writers simply couldn't catch up (note: the movie has four credited screenwriters), but unfortunately, 2oolander simply falls flat.

However, this is merely the latest in a spate of long delayed comedy sequels that missed the moment of their zeitgeist and delivered a product too late, when the audience had long since moved on.

The Jim Carrey-Jeff Daniels comedy Dumb & Dumber was released in the middle of Carrey's massive popularity, the $17 million movie returned $247 million worldwide, turning it into a bona-fide runaway hit. Twenty years later, with the leading actors aged 52 and 58 respectively, the sequel arrived costing over twice as much and earning over $75 million less. Holding a score of 29% on Rotten Tomatoes, it was clear that Dumb & Dumber To was too little, too late.

Then there was Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgandy, arriving in 2004 to relative box office success ($90m return on $26m budget), which eventually turned into something of a major DVD phenomenon. Nine years later, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues showed, with a script consisting of just about every joke from the original, just slightly bigger and slightly less funny. Not that it mattered, as the movie was released while Will Ferrell was a relative hot comedic property ($173m on a $50m budget) and, somehow, scored an even better Rotten Tomatoes score than the original (75% compared to 66%), but you'd be hard pressed to find someone with a copy of the film in their DVD collection.

While it feels like these long gestating sequels are something of a relatively recent problem, there certainly aren't. Blues Brothers 2000 followed on from the original in 1998, 17 years after the original, and is considered one of the worst sequels ever made. In fact, even outside of comedies, the phenomenon of long delayed sequels almost singularly result in an inferior product: The Godfather Part III (16 years later), Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (18 years later), Psycho 2 (22 years later).

There are conflicting signs of hope, though. The Coen Brothers are constantly asked about developing a sequel to one of the greatest comedies of all time, The Big Lebowski, but recently confirmed they will never make one. On the other hand, Mad Max: Fury Road arrived thirty years after Mel Gibson went Beyond Thunderdome, so it is possibly that postponed sequels have turned a corner, quality wise.

We'll have to wait and see how this years Ghostbusters - 27 years after they fought the pink ooze of the first sequel - pans out.