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Worst to First: Ranking the Sequels of 1998

We spent a few weeks in January pondering the best movies from twenty years ago.  But before you find yourself waxing nostalgic about how they don’t make ’em like they used to, here’s a little reminder that Hollywood made just as much crap thirty years ago as they do today.  If you’re looking for bad movies, sequels are usually a pretty good bet.  1998 had its fair share of clunkers with very few bright spots to even the scales.  It’s not the worst year in sequels we have seen so far, but it’s still pretty lousy.  Let’s relive the mediocrity of the sequels of 1998

13. 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain

Rotten Tomato Score: 0%

Domestic Gross: $375,805

Place in Franchise: 4 of 4

Years Since Last Movie: 3

Actors Replaced: All of the child actors from the first three movies were replaced.

Summary: Unless you were a martial-arts loving youngster in the 90’s, odds are the 3 Ninja movies were never on your radar.  Even if you were aware of them, there’s a good chance you forget the franchise ever existed.  I know I did.  The original movie was about a trio of brothers who are trained by their grandfather to be preteen ninjas.  With a gross shy shy of $30 million dollars, it reeled in enough families to earn a sequel.

Two years later, 3 Ninjas Kick Back earned about a third of what the original movie made.  You would think that would have been the end of the ninja trio, but as it turns out a third movie had already been made.  3 Ninjas Knuckle Up was filmed back-to-back with the original movie, but following the success of 3 Ninjas it was shelved in favor of making a follow-up with higher production values.  As a result, the kids are younger in the third movie than they are in the second one.

The third movie was barely released in theaters.  It played for all of one week in just over 50 theaters.  It earned back less than half a million dollars, but it must have sold well on video because someone decided it was a good idea to stretch the series beyond a trilogy.  The fourth movie, High Noon at Mega Mountain, replaced all the child actors and brought in D-list stars Loni Anderson, Hulk Hogan and Jim Varney to play villains who menace an amusement park.

The business strategy here seemed to be to release Mega Mountain for a week in theaters to prop up sales on home video.  But despite playing in twice as many theaters as Knuckle Up, the fourth movie earned even less money.  One assumes that the home video sales fell short of expectations based on the lack of a fifth entry in the series.

The 3 Ninja movies never aspired to be anything more than cheap kiddie entertainment.  Each successive movie set its sights a little lower than its predecessor.  By the time the series reached Magic Mountain, it had attained the rare 0% RT score.

Next: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

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Posted on February 8, 2018, in Movies, sequels, Worst to First and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 42 Comments.

  1. Agreed pretty much with the whole ranking. The top 3 are easily the most watchable of all these sequels. I’d switch Star Trek and Lethal Weapon. But other than that on target.

    I might have laced Blues Brothers 2000 at the bottom. But that speaks to the fact that I managed to avoid most of the real bottom feeders (Species II 3 Ninjas). On that note, I did see the first 3 Ninjas.Can’t comment on the quality since I’ve managed to erase most of it from my mind. I remember seeing it followed by My Cousin Vinny. The latter has definitely stuck with me much longer.

    If anyone truly cares about 3 Ninjas, the AV Club did devote a whole article to the series.

    https://film.avclub.com/the-pint-sized-ass-kickers-of-3-ninjas-show-why-action-1798252801

    The thing about US Marshals. Although it wasn’t the box office success of The Fugitive, it was the highest opening movie the week it opened. It was the 36th highest grossing one of the year according to BOM. It also opened the same weekend as The Big Lebowski and we know how things ended up with those 2 movies 20 years later.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I could swap Star Trek and Lethal Weapon. I’d have to rewatch Lethal Weapon 4 first and I just have no desire to do so. If I am going to watch a Lethal Weapon movie (and that’s not very likely), it’s going to be 2. I’m just not much of a fan. Insurrection is a lesser Star Trek movie, but it is my franchise of preference. So I ranked it a bit higher than some probably would.

      I was surprised by how high Blues Brothers 2000 got on the list. I was expecting to rank it at or near the bottom. But DAMN! there were some lousy movies that managed to sink lower. While BB2000 is a steep drop-off form the original, it isn’t wretched like 3 Ninjas 4.

      US Marshalls could have opened in first place at the box office if it weren’t for the fact Titanic was on a historic run. It was still hanging on to the top spot after 12 weeks in theaters!

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      • That’s the interesting thing about Titanic. It’s one movie that I found overrated at the time. Yet today, it’s kinda underrated. It went from being too far in one direction to too far in the other.

        The movie that unseated Titanic was Lost In Space. Today, while Titanic has kinda fallen to a backlash, it’s still remembered. Lost In Space is now a staple of used DVD bins.

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        • I would agree that Titanic was over-rated back in the day and is currently under-rated.

          I plan to address Lost in Space in more detail later this year. Wasn’t it supposed to launch a franchise? 😉

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        • Yeah Lost In Space was meant to start a franchise (you included it in one of your entries in that series).

          The thing about it was that it came at a point when it had been over a decade since the original series had been in syndication. Say what you want about The Flintstones, Scooby Doo, Bewitched, Miami Vice etc etc. Those shows are still relatively fresh or easy to find. Whereas stuff like Lost In Space, My Favorite Martian, Land Of The Lost etc is not as well remembered or as easy to find.

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        • Yep. I have been fleshing out some of those earlier entries in one-shot articles. LiS has an anniversary coming up, so…

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  2. Even The Players Club is more widely remembered these days than a lot of the movies in this list, let alone a past-its-sell-by-date Major Legaue sequel!

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  3. Like a lot of you, I’m surprised how high “Blues Brothers 2000” was on the list. That movie is an example of how you should not keep going once your co-star from the original (John Belushi) passed away. On a positive note, though, Aykroyd has something to fall back on in case his movie career peters out.

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    • One of the things I did not cover (due to space) was Aykroyd’s side businesses. When he and Belushi first met, it was at a club in Canada which Aykroyd owned. He’s been involved in several such enterprises including the House of Blues. I think his movie career has more or less petered out, but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to squeeze more life out of properties like Ghostbusters and Blues Brothers. He ought to stop and enjoy his clubs.

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      • I agree. Aykroyd’s movie career is pretty much done. What most people don’t realize is comedians have expiration dates. If John Belushi and Chris Farley were still alive, I doubt they’d be working. Phil Hartman was smarter than most because he always had “The Simpsons” to fall back on.

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      • I also think that Aykroyd simply started running out of good ideas. After he peaked with “Ghostbusters”, there was really little else to go. And even then, Ivan Reitman and Harold Ramis had to convince Dan Aykroyd to temper his crazier ideas (and make something more cost-effective and relatable).

        An early tale-tell sign that Aykroyd was going back to the well was when he did the “Coneheads” movie after “Nothing But Trouble” bombed.

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    • I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that maybe Dan Aykroyd thought that “Blue Brothers 2000” could’ve been successful in light of his appearance as Elwood (along with Jim Belushi) at the Super Bowl halftime show roughly a year prior. So basically, Aykroyd may have felt that he needed to “strike while the iron was hot” so to speak.

      https://www.rollingstone.com/music/pictures/super-bowl-halftime-shows-ranked-from-worst-to-best-20140128/18-the-blues-brothers-1997-0917913

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  4. In fact, past-its-sell-by-date is probably what most of these sequels have in common, now that I think about it. It’s quite ironic that the last-placed on this list is probably just about the only one that came at about the right time for any cash-in to make any sense.

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    • “Late to the party” was a theme with this year’s sequels. And none of them were better late than never.

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      • I have three theories about why Lethal Weapon 4 came so late. The most feasible ones are:

        Mel needed the money to keep funding Icon.
        Joe Pesci was about to retire and did it to cash a handsome paycheck before bowing out.

        The other, more speculative one? To give Danny Glover one last chance to shine, as any of his attempts to establish himself as a leading man weren’t exactly a big success – Predator 2, anyone?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Good theories. But I suspect the most likely one was:

          The last 2 LWs had been hits and Warner wasn’t about to let that gravy train get derailed.

          That’s why it came as late and as overstuffed as it was. It got the job done as the last entry in the series and was a better note for Pesci to go out on than the previous year’s Gone Fishin’. But it was easily the least in the series. I have it, because I bought a set that had all four movies in it. But LW4 is easily the one that gets the least watches (2 and 3 are the top ones).

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        • LW4 is the only one I own. It came free with a DVD player I bought in 1999.

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        • Also, Warner Bros. needed a sure fire tentpole/blockbuster movie for the summer of 1998 after a string of commercial duds:
          http://www.denofgeek.com/us/movies/lethal-weapon/247889/the-ridiculously-fast-turnaround-time-of-lethal-weapon-4

          But then Summer 1997 hadn’t been a great one for Warner Bros. Big budget comedy Father’s Day disappointed, Batman & Robin wasn’t the expected tentpole, and Mel Gibson-Julia Roberts vehicle Conspiracy Theory – admittedly a tonally ambitious movie in its own right – hadn’t taken off either.

          Only Robert Zemeckis’ Contact gave the studio a ray of light in its otherwise disappointing summer schedule, and the studio’s slate of upcoming costly projects – The Postman, Sphere, and U.S. Marshals (a sort-of sequel to The Fugitive, albeit without Harrison Ford) – wasn’t inspiring too much confidence.

          For summer 1998, Warner Bros was hinging its hopes on the Michael Douglas thriller A Perfect Murder, an adaptation of the TV show The Avengers, and the Kevin Spacey-Samuel L Jackson headlined thriller, The Negotiator. It was also pouring money into the big budget Soldier, due later in 1998.

          But it needed a safer bet in the midst of its summer schedule. Lethal Weapon 4 suddenly had its greenlight. And the clock was very much ticking.

          The problem? The script wasn’t ready, and the decision to push ahead with the project was made relatively late in the day.

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  5. The most disappointing of these for me was the Odd Couple sequel that had more in common with Grumpy Old Men than the original Neil Simon script. I actually went to see this in the theater and it was a monumental letdown. Part of the magic of the original was the affection you were able to maintain for both characters even as you saw them getting on one another’s nerves so badly. Neither guy was completely hopeless and neither one was faultless. And well, the original had several really top-notch jokes whereas the follow-up was truly weak. You ended up disliking both characters rather than liking them both despite their obvious faults but realizing they shouldn’t be living together. That’s a movie that really shouldn’t have been made at all, something that can probably be said about several of these.

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  6. I think the best of the bunch is LETHAL WEAPON 4. It is definitely better than STAR TREK: INSURRECTION in every respect, and objectively better than BABE: PIG IN THE CITY. Damn, that is one depressing kids movie. I remember thinking that THE ODD COUPLE II was okay, but there were a lot of f-bombs and as daffy stated above, was its lack of affection. It was just too mean-spirited.

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    • Lethal Weapon Vs. Star Trek I am going to attribute to personal preference. As I said elsewhere, I’m not a LW fan. Neither of these movies represents their respective franchise all that well, but I would rather watch a weak Star Trek movie than a lesser LW sequel. I can easily understand someone feeling the opposite way.

      Totally disagree on Babe 2 though. I haven’t seen it since it was in theaters, but I remember being very impressed by it when it was released. I appreciated that it was dark. I wasn’t looking at it as a kids’ movie at the time because I was a young adult without kids.

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      • I’m still a young adult without kids and I still think it’s depressing.

        I never cared for TNG, so that whole 4-film spinoff franchise did very little for me. I liked FIRST CONTACT fine, but the rest were meh. Oh, GENERATIONS was clearly hate-worthy though. And I like the LW franchise. They did get overstuffed by the end, but the chemistry between the actors was always fun. LW2 is the best one, and there was no way to top that one.

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        • Yeah, the Next Gen movies aren’t my favorites. FC is easily the best one and it’s not great. LW2 is quite entertaining. The first one, to me, is too dark. 3 and 4 are too silly. With 2, they got the balance just right.

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        • The main thing about the Babe movies is that they could play well for both families as well as adults watching them alone. I saw the original in the summer of 1996, right before my senior year of HS, Loved it. Babe 2 mya have been a little too hard edged. But I remember liking it a lot.

          Star Trek. The original series was easily the best as far as movies go. Take Star Trek The Bore (the first one of course) and Final Frontier out of the equation and you have a pretty good series. TNG was the best of the TV series. But the movies form it, with one obvious exception range from mediocre to pretty bad. The exception of course is First Contact.

          None of the Lethal Weapon movies are truly bad. I’d rank the first three as good to great. The original is fresh, the second one expands on that and the third is the most purely fun. 4’s main undoing is being overstuffed. But it’s still enjoyable.

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        • The first Star Trek movie was Star Trek: The Motionless Picture. But even that is somewhat enjoyable for the “reunion” factor and special effects that were groundbreaking at the time but horribly dated now. I like to try to remember what it was like seeing it in theaters when everyone was so excited to see these characters again and the visuals were mind-blowing.

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        • The director’s cut of STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE is much improved over the original. It is much less boring – and more like how Star Trek was intended to be – than any of the other films in the series. The effects are better in the director’s cut too. Now normally, I’m not in favor of tampering with films years alter, but in this case it actually made the film better.

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        • A friend of mine rushed out and bought the Director’s Cut of The Motion Picture the day it was released on DVD. He had read a review on Ain’t It Cool News which made it sound like a whole new movie. It’s not. I will agree that it is an improvement over the theatrical release, but it’s still pretty dull. Not that I won’t watch it if it’s on.

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        • The first time I saw it I liked it a lot more. How about that?

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        • We had unrealistically high expectations for the Director’s Cut. My friend is a major Star Trek nerd. He likes everything Star Trek whether it is any good or not. He wanted to believe that the new movie would work some kind of magic to counter the fact that a lot of the movie is just people staring at screens. After it was over, we immediately watched it again with the commentary turned on and laughed about how subtle the changes actually were. I remember Wise talking about adding a purple hue to the special effects. It was an improvement, so I’ll take it. And the truth is, I always liked TMP even for all its short-comings.

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  7. Oh! And the best Star Trek series was NOT that TNG thing. It was the original series. Hands down. The second best was the animated series made by Filmation. Kirk, Spock, Bones, Sulu, Uhura, Scotty, (and Chekov) rule (as long as they’re played by the original actors).

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    • I agree that the original crew cannot be beat. The first season of Next Gen was awful. I gave up on it. It got better over time and eventually a friend of mine (the one who couldn’t wait to watch the Director’s Cut of ST:TMP) convinced me to give it another chance. I enjoyed the last few seasons of TNG, but in no way was it better than the original series. I’m not even sure it was the best of the TV shows from that era. On any given day, I could give that title to Deep Space Nine. Just, don’t bring up Voyager or Enterprise.

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      • The OS and TNG are both great. DS9 is a favorite of many people, including my Trekkie father.ST was riding high for most of he 90s. It was around 1998 when it started to run out of steam. Insurrection underperformed at the box office and Voyager failed to connect with fans the same way the three previous ones did. Enterprise did even worse, with most people passing on it, including the dedicated fans. The box office bomb of Nemesis pretty much indicated that Star Trek was past its prime. The Abrams entries, while enjoyable (at least the first one was, the less said about Into Darkness the better) But I can understand why hardcore Trekkies see them as basically Star Trek in name only. Because that’s all they are. They’re more or less entertaining but inferior adjuncts to the original

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