Year of sequels

High-five, bro.

High-five, bro.

According to Box Office Mojo, there are currently 27 sequels slated for nationwide release in 2011, a new modern record that bests the previous high of 24 in 2003. And that’s not even counting New Year’s Eve, Garry Marshall’s sequel-in-spirit to his 2010 hit Valentine’s Day.

This sequel glut should come as no surprise, since the revival and consumption of cinematic jetsam has been spreading like a zombie virus through the film industry for decades. Studios treat the most modest movie successes like institutions (see: Johnny English Reborn … at your peril), while established brands like Pirates of the Caribbean, X-Men and Scream are never permitted to die.

The 2011 sequels feature the expected mix of lucrative franchises (Transformers 3, Fast Five, new Harry Potter and Twilight movies, a fourth Mission: Impossible entry, Tyler Perry’s whatever), quick-buck follow-ups to recent hits (Sherlock Holmes 2, Piranha 3DD, The Hangover Part II), and attention-span filler for kids (Cars 2, Happy Feet 2, Kung Fu Panda 2).

Naturally, most are desperate attempts to wring bucks out of a malnourished cash cow—Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World (and this is what you came up with?); Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked (an ideal double feature with Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties); Final Destination 5 (lots of unexplored territory there), Paranormal Activity 3 (apparently they haven’t run out of light fixtures to nudge); and Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (retitled from Honky Grandma Be Trippin’ Too!).

Most intriguing are the attempts to revive and extend moribund franchises by any means necessary—a Planet of the Apes “origin story” starring James Franco called Rise of the Apes; Puss in Boots, a Shrek prequel originally intended for DVD release; and The Muppets, which according to IMDB, co-stars Zach Galifianakis as “Hobo Joe.” So there’s that.