Hollywood may always have had a ferocious appetite for sequels, but one genre, the musical, has surprisingly been left relatively untouched. It’s rare that a sequel to a film like Disney’s “Frozen” has been made and released in theaters. With “Frozen 2” now joining those exclusive ranks, here’s a look at the good, the bad and the O.K. of selected movie musical sequels.
‘Frozen 2’ (2019)
“Frozen 2” was bound to lack the lightning-in-a-bottle quality of its predecessor, but it does what all good sequels should. It gives us more of the characters we love, an equally worthy roster of songs and enough fresh storytelling to avoid moving the franchise into too-familiar territory.
Best Song: “Show Yourself”
This song doesn’t pull off the impossible task of being another “Let It Go,” but who cares? It’s another thunderous Idina Menzel showstopper about self-discovery and empowerment that earns all the goose bumps it gives you.
Worst Song: “The Next Right Thing”
None of the seven new songs in “Frozen 2” are bad. But if we had to designate one as the worst, it would be “The Next Right Thing” because it’s something of a momentum and mood killer, even if that’s by design.
‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ (2018)
Who would have expected that a “Mamma Mia!” follow-up would kill Meryl Streep’s character offscreen, and that the movie would work without her? But thanks to an affecting story, a game Lily James and the franchise’s continued commitment to its brand of corny sincerity, “Here We Go Again” allows for the possibility that the sequel is better than the original.
On one hand, Cher owns “Fernando” to the degree that the movie has to provide a literal fireworks display to match her performance. On the other, is the moving lullaby “My Love, My Life,” beautifully sung and acted by James, Streep and Amanda Seyfried. Some might be able to choose one song over the other, but why when you can have both?
Worst Song: “One of Us”
Some inventive visual transitions between Sophie and Sky (Seyfried and Dominic Cooper), temporarily separated by the Atlantic, can’t stop “One of Us” from being a dud. It doesn’t help that in a franchise devoted to 1000 percent sincerity at all times, this disingenuous attempt to add strife to the young couple’s relationship feels off brand.
‘Funny Lady’ (1975)
There’s hardly a minute that passes in “Funny Lady” where one doesn’t wonder how its filmmakers so fundamentally misunderstood what made “Funny Girl” a delight. Its sins are numerous, but perhaps the worst of all is that of never allowing a song to have bearing on the plot, or reflect an ounce of character. The result is a film that feels like it’s being interrupted by music, not enriched by it.
Best Song: “Isn’t This Better”
There’s a rawness in this aching melody, beautifully sung by Barbra Streisand, that offers a convincing emotion that the rest of “Funny Lady” lacks.
Worst Song: “Let’s Hear It for Me”
The Times critic Vincent Canby wrote in 1975 that he felt the composers “wrote their score for ‘Funny Lady’ with a gun at their heads, being told to come up with song-by-song equivalents to the great ‘Funny Girl’ numbers.” That’s most apparent with this woeful attempt to proxy “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” which encapsulates how much the sequel suffers from any comparison to its predecessor.
‘Shock Treatment’ (1981)
This loose sequel to “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” with its frenetic pace, should come with a vertigo warning. Its plot, when it becomes coherent, is not helped by its wholesale borrowing from Brian De Palma’s “Phantom of the Paradise,” because it whets the desire to watch that movie instead.
Best Song: “Little Black Dress”
You’ll find few songs in “Shock Treatment” you wish were longer, but this punchy rock ’n’ roll ode to an Audrey Hepburn/“Breakfast at Tiffany’s”-style dress, could easily have extended its pleasures.
Worst Song: “Bitchin’ in the Kitchen”
Give “Bitchin’” credit for the bold conceit of characters expressing their relationship woes through television commercial-inspired wordplay. Still, the result is so strange (“Dear knife drawer, now won’t you help me face life more”) that you’d swear you can even see Jessica Harper react with confusion over what she’s asked to sing.
‘Grease 2’ (1982)
This sequel may feel like a high school drama class’s effort, but that often works in its favor. You find yourself more forgiving of its rough songs, thin characters and silly story because everyone involved is so committed to trying to make it all work.
Best Song: “Score Tonight”
This sequence, with a gaggle of bowling teenagers seized by their competitive spirit, ignited by their hormones and enlivened by a double entendre or two, offers a well choreographed dance number and an earworm worthy of being a musical companion to “Greased Lightning.”
Worst Song: “Charades”
A cliché-riddled ballad that’s so maudlin, it would make a perfect karaoke music video.
‘Mary Poppins Returns’ (2018)
Despite its best efforts (or because of them) “Mary Poppins Returns” is like a child stepping in the footprints left in the snow by an older sibling. It doesn’t go anywhere new, but the path it takes is safe enough, capturing the spirit of the original, if not all of its magic.
Best Song: “Trip a Little Light Fantastic”
A thrilling successor to the chimney sweep number “Step in Time” in “Mary Poppins,” in the sequel “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” captures the same magic of a hidden-in-plain-sight world coming to life (this time it’s lamplighters), but delivers a catchier tune and a rewind-worthy dance number.
Worst Song: “Turning Turtle”
The movie and Meryl Streep try, but they just can’t recreate enough of the goofy charm of Ed Wynn and “I Love to Laugh” to save “Turning Turtle” from becoming unmemorable even as you’re watching it.