It’s official: Top Gun: Maverick is the breakout hit of the summer. Thirty-six years after the original Top Gun soared into theaters, Paramount Pictures has another jet-fueled, box office behemoth on its hands; the legacy sequel has become Paramount Pictures’ highest-grossing movie in the United States and Canada, surpassing Titanic. That makes Tom Cruise’s Maverick the new King of the World, we suppose.
Knowing Hollywood, they will learn the exact wrong lessons from Maverick’s success. Instead of realizing that audiences responded to dazzling practical effects and traditional, emotional storytelling executed at a high level with no need for the smirky, ironic detachment that has become en vogue, studio executives will likely zero in on the “legacy sequel with a big star” side of the equation. It’s pretty much inevitable.
Tom Cruise is certainly a huge factor in Top Gun: Maverick’s success. He’s a genuine old-guard movie star the likes of which we just aren’t producing these days. Despite, or maybe because of, his involvement with Scientology, the public still has a genuine fascination with Cruise, and yet he doesn’t feel overexposed in the way that former box office titans like Will Smith or Johnny Depp do these days. There’s still a mystique around Cruise, and when he has a new film, they still feel like events. Also, his old hits like Top Gun still have cultural cachet; they’re quoted regularly and air constantly on cable. Cruise still means something to moviegoers and the pop culture landscape at large.
So who else has Cruise’s star power and bankability, yet also has a filmography with a hit that could reasonably be revisited so many years later? We’re talking about mainstream crowdpleasers that were successful at the time of their release, not niche or modest successes that have gone on to become beloved classics. Who is beloved by the masses, yet scarce enough that it makes their public appearances or new projects feel special? Who has a legacy sequel in them that could reach the highs of Top Gun: Maverick?
The answer is simple: Jim Carrey. But does he have a past hit that feels perfectly situated for a 2020s update? Dear reader, he has several.
Though it has been a while since Carrey has been a sure thing at the box office, his string of hit films in the ‘90s can only be rivaled by the aforementioned Smith. Those films get endless replays on cable. Turn your television on right now, and I’m sure one of his comedies from yesteryear is playing somewhere. Carrey still feels like the biggest star in any room that he’s in, and his scattered public appearances these days still generate headlines. His Joe Biden appearances on Saturday Night Live weren’t particularly good, they were just exciting because it was Jim Carrey just being silly on TV for free. With the recent Sonic films, he’s even endeared himself to a new generation.
Naysayers may point out that Carrey has already attempted the legacy sequel with limp results. 2014’s Dumb and Dumber To, a sequel to 1994’s Dumb and Dumber, had a decent box office haul of $169.8 million against a $50 million budget, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to Maverick’s numbers, and the film received generally unfavorable reviews. But it’s arguable that Dumb and Dumber was one of the least suitable hits from Carrey’s past for the legacy sequel treatment. There’s nowhere particularly interesting to go with the premise of “two extremely dumb guys;” the Farrelly Brothers’ brand of humor feels dated; and the movie uses one of the most cliche legacy sequel storytelling devices in the “central character discovers previously unknown child.”
Carrey has other films that feel better suited for a revival—films that actually have an interesting entry point for a revisit. Carrey has gone on record recently mulling over a retirement from acting, but we believe he has one more box office juggernaut in him. The next great legacy sequel rests on Jim Carrey’s shoulders, and here are the films that are prime targets for an extension.
When The Mask was released during Carrey’s unprecedented hot streak in 1994, there was uncertainty about how audiences would respond to a comic book-inspired project. Those concerns seem silly in 2022, with comic book properties routinely holding the top spot at the box office. It seems like the perfect time to bring Stanley Ipkiss and Loki’s mask back to cinemas.
A new film could satirize our current superhero-obsessed landscape or even push things in a darker direction that’s more in line with the original film’s source material. After all, audiences have been served a steady diet of comic book insanity over the last 30 years. With Cameron Diaz recently announcing her return to Hollywood, you could have a reunion between two big, bankable stars to get butts in seats, and if you throw in a third splashy name as the villain, even better. Carrey has been asked about the potential for a sequel to The Mask for years, and in 2020, he said that a pitch from a visionary director would be something that could pique his interest.
Carrey is surely right to hold out for the right pitch. A Mask sequel needs to avoid feeling like a tired rehash, a la Dumb and Dumber To, so it will require an ambitious director that can really lean into the Tex Avery cartoon-inspired madness or bring something unique to the table like the New Jack Swing-influenced feel of Edge City in the original. As long as they rely on the best practical effect of the ‘90s, Carrey’s rubbery mug, they should be alright.
A pet detective seemed like a silly idea in 1994, but in a society that has doggy boutiques, pet bakeries, and takes animal rights more seriously than ever, Ace seems like he’d fit in pretty nicely these days. Legacy sequels usually find their protagonist down on their luck when we catch back up with them in the future, but an Ace Ventura sequel could find the pet detective in high demand and at full-blown celebrity status.
A high-profile case involving Instagram famous pets could be a modern hook, but as social media shows, cute animal content of any kind will get the job done. As long as Ace doesn’t discover that he has a long-lost child, this thing pretty much sells itself. Plus, it would be nice to have Ace be the star of a film that isn’t horrifically transphobic or racist!
The Cable Guy
While The Cable Guy didn’t exactly set the world on fire upon release in 1996, its darker tone and central themes have proven to be ahead of its time, and now the film is seen as a cult classic. That doesn’t necessarily fit the established criteria of this article, but The Cable Guy feels very relevant to our current content-filled moment. Carrey’s character Chip was a child raised by his television, who as an adult was unable to distinguish reality from TV-based examples of what life and relationships were supposed to be like. Chip’s obsession with media and his tendency to fall into parasocial relationships feels very relevant in an internet age full of Stan culture and fabricated realities posted on social media.
Chip was eerily prescient when he predicted how our televisions, computers, and phones would all be connected, so how would he be doing now that all of his predictions came to fruition? There’s definitely something there to explore. Plus, anyone that watched Apple TV+’s Severance this year has seen that director Ben Stiller is operating at the top of his game. Maybe this could be an example of both star and director returning to expand upon their original creation.
The Truman Show
Perhaps the Carrey film that is best suited for a sequel, The Truman Show ended on a tantalizing note with Truman Burbank escaping his simulated existence in Seahaven after discovering that his entire life had been a meticulously produced, 24/7 reality television program. How would Truman move forward in a real-world that is not catered to his existence? How would he handle life being one of the most famous people on the planet, in a world where he could now see the cameras watching him? Catching up with Truman is a tantalizing prospect. Reality television has gone so much further since 1998, and now with social media, we all can be the stars of our very own Truman Show.
Voyeurism as it was displayed in The Truman Show is now part of everyday life. The 2022 Cannes Film Festival paid homage to the film on its official poster, stating that “Peter Weir and Andrew Niccol’s The Truman Show (1998) is a modern reflection of Plato’s cave and the decisive scene urges viewers to not only experience the border between reality and its representation but to ponder the power of fiction, between manipulation and catharsis.” As a society, pondering the difference between manipulation and catharsis may be more important than ever.
There are several interesting avenues to explore with Truman Burbank. Perhaps Christof, the creator of The Truman Show portrayed by Ed Harris, would attempt to start the experiment with someone else. Would Truman work to help this new subject, or perhaps in a cynical twist, become a consultant on the production? Also, would social media influence the operation in some capacity? Truman’s life in Seahaven had a decidedly retro-1950s quality to it, but maybe modern audiences need something more gripping. What if Christof and his team need to inject more drama and chaos into a new subject’s life to keep audiences hooked? What if Truman discovers that, realistically, there are people volunteering to have their lives manipulated? There are so many directions you could go.