Thursday, September 22, 2011

Accidentally the Perfect Sequel

Sometimes there are movies that work perfectly as a sequel to a completely unrelated movie.  I say this because I found one today.  One where just a name change for the main character would have been enough so that the storyline from the first movie would play into the second seamlessly.  Where the main character has the same personality in both films.  I'm talking about The Freshman and Swimming with Sharks.
The Freshman (1990) stars Matthew Broderick and Marlon Brando.  Broderick is a naive, optimistic film student starting college.  Immediately upon arriving to college, he is robbed.  This leads him to meeting the robber's boss,  a mafioso played by Marlon Brando.  They like meta-humor in this movie, and have Broderick's character watch The Godfather in film class (not one of the scenes with Brando).  In addition, when he meets Brando, he says, "You look remarkably like..."
Anyway, Brando finds jobs for him to do, Brando's daughter falls in love with him, wacky hijinks ensue.  In the end, Broderick keeps his bright-eyed optimism, and Brando even says that he'll help Broderick find a job in the film business when he graduates.
Swimming with Sharks (1994) stars Frank Whaley and Kevin Spacey (in one of his best performances).  Frank Whaley is a naive, optimistic film school graduate who just got a job working as an assistant to one of the most powerful execs in Hollywood.  It's never explained how he got this job that "a thousand people would kill for."  And he has the same personality as Broderick in The Freshman.  But it's more than that.
This movie cuts back and forth between the naive, optimistic Whaley and the "finally snapped" Whaley.  The former trying to be the nice guy despite the constant abuse from his evil boss (Spacey).  This has some of the meta-godfather aspect in the previous movie, insofar that Whaley's the good guy amongst the bad guys who has to become a bad guy himself to survive.  The movie even ends with the door closing in front of him so he can "discuss business."


So what was the point of all this?  Just that I found an interesting connection in storylines between two very good films.  The Freshman is one of my favorite comedies of all time, with a clever story and they don't overdo it on the meta-humor.  It's a family appropriate film.  I only mention that because the other film isn't.
As I said earlier, Swimming with Sharks has one of Spacey's best roles (Buddy Ackerman) and that performance alone could carry the movie.  It's a bit dated, but that's easily ignored.  It does get very violent and Kevin Spacey swears like the boss in an R-rated comedy, but fortunately the movie doesn't try to rely on that.  If you can, see both movies.  And as a bonus, here's my favorite quote from Swimming with Sharks:
This is show business.  Punching below the belt is not only all right; It is rewarded.

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