RED 2 ★★★

I had, through Gofobo, passes to a pre-release screening of The Way Way Back and I went with a friend to that. However, we arrived in time to be told we were too late to be admitted. Being that we were already there (and it not being a terribly convenient drive for either of us to just write off as a waste), we wound up seeing RED 2. I'd enjoyed the first film enough that I was game for its sequel, but this has been a bit of a hectic and taxing time and I sort of forgot about its opening. My friend hadn't seen the first film, but I anticipated she would be able to just pick up what she needed to know as we went.

Ultimately I did enjoy it, but it was tougher going than I had anticipated or hoped. In fairness to RED 2, the theater was pretty dead and it's the kind of movie that relies on the energy level of its audience. If only three people in eight laugh aloud at any of the gags, no matter how much the other five may enjoy what they're seeing, it feels awkward and kind of sad, really.

RED 2 is really more of the same from the first film, so I give it credit for not trying to reinvent the wheel. That said, there really were no surprises along the way. The plot twists were obvious and predictable, and the dialog at times fell into that cliched-spy-"This is just like Budapest"-zone where we hear them say things just for the purpose of casually reminding us how experienced the characters are at what they do. Particularly tedious is most of what passes for banter between Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) and Katya (Catherine Zeta-Jones) as reunited ex's from opposite sides of Cold War shenanigans.

There is one area where the film eschewed its predecessor, though, and not for the better. Frank's motivation in both films is to protect Sarah (Mary Louise-Parker), which made sense the first time since she was a civilian inadvertently caught up in the conspiracy of death. This time, though, she not only has that experience under her belt but she's got an enthusiasm for it. Yet throughout the entire film, Frank is there to try to douse the flames.

The end result is that Frank comes off not as afraid of anything happening to the woman he loves, but instead as a boy who just doesn't like playing paintball with his girlfriend. Time and again, Sarah proves herself only for Frank to behave as though he's just put out that she's cramping his style - and upstaging him.

In a more serious film, Sarah's competence would be insulting to actual, trained professionals. But these are action hero spies, not the analytical deal-makers of le Carre's novels, so it's okay that she's the one who takes charge of interrogating "The Frog" (David Thewlis) and gets his cooperation by throwing herself at him. This sparks a running gag where Sarah finds herself kissing various men in the course of being an active team member. She enjoys it as a passive-aggressive means of getting back at Frank for his relationship with Katya. With a more receptive audience, it probably played well but I found it contrived and one-note.

I'm still game for a RED 3 if they're so inclined, but I do ask that it feature more originality and development than this outing. The cast, the characters and situation are all likable enough to support another film but we need it to give us something new.

How RED 2 Entered My Flickchart

RED 2 > 101 Dalmatians (1961) --> #770
RED 2 doesn't offer anything new from its predecessor, but I can't remember much from 101 Dalmatians so it wins by default.

RED 2 < Sabrina (1995) --> #770
Julia Ormond may not hold the screen the way Audrey Hepburn did, but the '95 remake of Sabrina has its own charm. RED 2 is likable, but doesn't add anything new to its predecessor. The remake beats the sequel.

RED 2 < Mind Meld: Secrets Behind the Voyage of a Lifetime --> #770
RED 2 has its moments and Mary Louise-Parker is fun to watch in it, but I was more captivated by Shatner and Nimoy interviewing one another.

RED 2 < Halloween (1978) --> #770
Halloween represents an evolutionary advancement in the Horror genre, whereas RED 2 doesn't even really add anything to RED.

RED 2 < Unforgiven --> #770
I've seen each of these once. I'd be more interested to revisit Unforgiven, and on that basis, it gets the nod.

RED 2 < Little Shop of Horrors (1986) --> #770
RED 2 isn't as strong as RED, whereas Frank Oz's Little Shop of Horrors is a vast improvement over Roger Corman's. The remake beats the sequel.

RED 2 > Captain America: The First Avenger --> #757
I really liked Captain America: The First Avenger for about a day after I first saw it. Then the luster was gone and I was indifferent to it. That costs it against the admittedly uninspired RED 2.

RED 2 < Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams --> #757
Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams is the best film in its franchise, whereas RED 2 recycles too much from its predecessor to add anything new.

RED 2 < Surfer, Dude --> #757
I wanted to like RED 2 more than I did, whereas I didn't expect to like Surfer, Dude as much as I did.

RED 2 < Inside Man --> #757
Inside Man doesn't have any nifty stunts, but its plot twists are actually surprising and rewarding.

RED 2 < The Blue Umbrella --> #757
I was a little harsh on The Blue Umbrella initially but it was charming and felt fresh, whereas RED 2 felt more recycled.

RED 2 entered my Flickchart at #757/1539