In economics, there’s a principle called the law of diminishing returns. It states that, with all other things constant, the more of a particular unit that exists, the less each unit will affect its designed output. It’s why businesses will stop hiring even if each additional employee will technically increase profit—at a certain tipping point, the cost of hiring a new employee outweighs the additional revenue. It’s also why too many tacos will make you sick, even though the second taco might have tasted better than the first, and so on.
Hollywood isn’t much more than a giant economic machine in which the numbers all end in about six zeroes. And that being the case, once its insidious executives latch onto a particularly fruitful teat, they will proceed to milk it dry with sequel after sequel. Often, there are predictable results: Jurassic Park was a great film, and hugely profitable, and so sequels were made, each one worse than the last. But since America still has dinosaur sheets on its enormous bed, we have a fourth installment coming soon. In a manner of speaking, this list is as much a celebration of capitalism as it is an indictment of its inherent evils.
But we’re not here to talk about Jurassic Park. We’re here to discuss the ideas that made no sense to begin with, and yet spawned ridiculously prolific franchises. It’s not that the original films were bad, necessarily—in some cases, it’s the opposite. But, on paper, it makes no sense to throw $50 million at these movies in the first place, so the fact that there are sequels to begin with shows either great economic foresight or drug-aided brain damage. We at Stars & Popcorn don’t pretend to know, but we’ll never understand the existence of franchises like…
10. ‘Spy Kids’ (2001-present)
Here is a classic example of what we’re going for on this list. Some group of Hollywood executives, probably trying to get fired for that sweet severance package, threw $50 million at a movie called Spy Kids, an idea not much more complicated than its title implies. Then, looking to sever ties with high-powered Hollywood agents, they signed Robert Rodriguez to direct, Danny Elfman to write original music, and big(ish)-name actors like Antonio Banderas, Teri Hatcher, Tony Shalhoub and Danny Trejo. And unfathomably, in a Producers-level shocker, people liked the movie. It was decent—good, even, depending on what you expected. It won ALMA awards and critical acclaim, including being named one of MSN’s top 10 best superhero movies to date. (This is dubious: There are no superheroes in this movie. Journalistic integrity, indeed.)
So Hollywood did what Hollywood does and drove it into the ground. What followed was the ridiculously titled sequel The Island of Lost Dreams, whose plot seems to be little more than “Steve Buscemi is a crazy scientist!,” and a third installment in inglorious 3D called Game Over starring noted villainous toymaker Sylvester Stallone. But Hollywood is not a merciful mistress. The game is far from over, and the franchise lives on: Looming on the horizon is All the Time in the World, following two new brats and their awful stepmother Jessica Alba as they, I don’t know, save the world or something, most likely. Why no, it’s not a straight-to-video release—in fact, it had a $40 million budget—why do you ask?