Reel life

WHY DOES EVERYONE ALWAYS COMPLAIN about Hollywood’s propensity for sequels? Sophocles and Shakespeare seemed to do OK with them, and the “Thin Man,” James Bond and “Mad Max” movies prove that there’s a lot of life in the genre.

No, the problem in sequels is not in their existence, but in their execution: Most follow-ups are too similar to the original (“Rocky” II through V) or too dissimilar (“Grease 2,””Alien3”). Hollywood is missing the point.

In the ’40s, Universal noticed that two of its franchises, the “Frankenstein” series and the Abbott & Costello films, were running out of steam. So some executive came up with an idea so simple and so brilliant that it’s staggering: combine the sequels.

Just imagine it. Those nice guys from “Grand Canyon,” Kevin Kline and Danny Glover, hurtle into the tow truck to help Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis and their banged-up Thunderbird at the bottom of the canyon. The women finally find the sensitive men they’d never known, and the audience gets “Thelma & Louise’s Excellent Adventure.”

Joe Pesci confronts the killer alien as “Lethal Weapon IV” meets “Predator 3 .””Broadcast Newsies,””Last Tango of the Mohicans,””Malcolm, Exorcist.”

Writer Aaron Sorkin knew this when he combined “The Caine Mutiny,””Sgt. Rutledge,””The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell,” et al. with “Top Gun” in his totally original “A Few Good Men.”

Here’s a few more ideas for you exex. Free of charge. Hey, we at Daily Variety are here to help you.

The Hand that Rocks the Home–Thrills and laughs ensue as adorable Kevin McCallister (adorable Macaulay Culkin) rigs up a number of hilariously lethal booby traps to thwart his vengeful, murderous baby sitter (Rebecca de Mornay).

Of Mice and Batmen–Someone is breaking the necks of pretty farm wives in Gotham City and the Caped Crusader encounters something he’s never before dealt with: A plot. Featuring Sean Young as a neighborhood looney who thinks she’s Catwoman.

Joe Stalin vs. the Volcano–Whimsical look at the life of the Soviet leader (Robert Duvall), with Meg Ryan having a field day playing three women in his life. Co-starring Milla Jovovich, Natalija Nogulich, Lolita Davidovich, Marushka Detmers, Mariska Hargitay and Renee Soutendijk.

A River Runs Through the Money Pit–This lovely, lyrical sequel manages to capture the tone and pacing of Robert Redford’s ’92 film: A couple of Presbyterian brothers (Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt) in 1920s Missoula paint their parents’ house and, as Redford softly narrates, the two sit and watch the paint dry.

A Few Good Toys–Heavy-handed look at the military as a cocky young attorney (Tom Cruise) is faced with his most challenging case: Defending Barry Levinson against charges of temporary artistic insanity.

Regarding Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer– Warm-hearted cinema verite: A brutal psychotic (Harrison Ford) kills people for the fun of it until he accidentally shoots himself in the head and is quickly transformed into a kind lawyer who buys a puppy for his family. Co-starring John Heard, John Hurt and William Hurt.

Shemp Howard’s End–A reserved Victorian family (Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins) learn to enjoy life more when they hire some unorthodox servants (the Three Stooges). With Helena Bonham-Carter, Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley-Anne Down, John Rhys-Davies, and Billy Ray Cyrus as Cousin Gooper.

Chicken of the Sea–“The Little Mermaid” meets “Jaws” in this 3-D animated horror musical. With the voices of Joan Van Ark, Dick Van Dyke, Nils Van Patten, Deborah Van Valkenburgh and featuring Sean Young as a sea urchin.

Indosheen Now–The beautiful French owner of a rubber plantation (Catherine Deneuve) finds an actor (Martin Sheen) in the jungles of a foreign country (Vietnam) who’s had a heart attack while making a film (“Apocalypse Now”). She nurses him back to health with the help of some motivational tapes (Tony Robbins). Richard Simmons appears briefly in a dream sequence, weeping.

Robin Hood: Prince of Tides–Venturing to a far-off land, Robin encounters an exotic enchantress (Barbra Streisand), who helps him realize that a childhood trauma has caused him to obsess over shafts, spears and arrows.

Bram Stoker’s Forever Dying Young–A vampire (Mel Gibson), grief-striken at the apparent death of his girlfriend, is frozen 400 years and falls in love with the nurse (Julia Roberts) who’s assigned to care for him. Featuring Talia Shire, Nicolas Cage and Sofia Coppola, with Sean Young as an IV drip.

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