They thought they were out but someone brought them back in: Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels have spent 20 years away from their “Dumb and Dumber “ doofuses. But fate — or in the former’s case, a lagging career — means it’s time for “Dumb and Dumber To.” He’s not alone. Others have spent longer than two decades away from a signature role, only to be drawn back due to audience needs, filmmaker needs or plain old desperation. Here are some others to keep Carrey and Daniels (and filmmakers Peter and Bobby Farrelly) company:
Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau
Characters, respectively:Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison
Film:“The Odd Couple II” (1998)
Previous film:“The Odd Couple” (1968)
Time elapsed:30 years
Felix and Oscar have a strange history: Neil Simon’s Broadway hit, debuted in 1965, originally featured Matthau as Oscar, and was soon finessed into the second movie pairing with him and Lemmon. That was the fourth highest grossing film of 1968, but the actors would not have exclusive rights to the characters’ legacy. Instead it was turned into a long-running TV show, starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, who actually replaced Matthau on Broadway. When Lemmon and Matthau became a hit movie team again with “Grumpy Old Men,” it was only a matter of time before they dusted off the characters — and, alas, put them on the road for the decidedly unliked sequel, which proved to be the two’s final joint venture.
Character: Kevin Flynn
Film: “Tron: Legacy” (2010)
Previous film: “Tron” (1982)
Time elapsed: 28 years
Character: Eddie Felson
Film: “The Color of Money” (1986)
Previous film: “The Hustler” (1961)
Time elapsed: 25 years
Stone-cold classics don’t often get sequels, especially ones that more or less tied everything up. Yet Newman’s pool shark from “The Hustler” returned anyway, under the direction of no less than Martin Scorsese and teamed with no less than an immediately post-“Top Gun” Tom Cruise. Newman won his Oscar for the performance, which finds a more reserved Felson than the bundle of nerves that stormed through the original. Some have claimed the trophy was intended as a make-up for not awarding previous performances (such as “The Hustler”), but it’s brilliant — one filled with profound regret and the excitement of feeling young again, even if the older Felson was living vicariously through a never showboatier Cruise.
Character: Norman Bates
Film: “Psycho II” (1983)
Previous film: “Psycho” (1960)
Time elapsed: 23 years
As Perkins would often complain, “Psycho” ruined his career, pigeonholing a budding talent into a series of creepy roles. He finally owned it with this surprisingly not remotely sacrilegious follow-up, which finds Norman returning from the hospital allegedly rehabilitated, but forced back into insanity by the meddling of others. (The director was Australia’s Richard Franklin, who made one of the best Hitchcock ripoffs, “Roadgames,” which is essentially “Rear Window” in a truck.) Perkins returned to the role twice more, even directing 1986’s “Psycho III.”
Character: Gordon Gekko
Film: “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (2010)
Previous film: “Wall Street” (1987)
Time elapsed: 23 years
Few characters are more ’80s than the stockbroker beast of Oliver Stone’s tidy takedown of Reagan-era capitalism; Gekko was even the inspiration for the “’80s guy” from “Futurama.” Soon after the financial apocalypse of 2008, Stone felt the time was right to bring him back, offering a calmed down, remorseful Gekko —or so it seems. Actually the film holds back on him, not giving him nor the even worse Wall Street of a quarter of a century later the thunderous bitchslap it deserved (and deserves).
Character: John Rambo
Film: “Rambo” (2008)
Previous film: “Rambo III” (1988)
Time elapsed: 20 years
Sly swore he was retiring from action with 1996’s “Daybreak.” In part because that tanked — and because serious roles like “Copland” did not lead to more dramatic work — he found himself returning to the genre in his autumn years, exhuming characters long presumed movie-dead. After the semi-surprise success of “Rocky Balboa” (done a mere 16 years after “Rocky V”), he dusted off John Rambo too. Last seen aiding and abetting the Mujahideen (which is true), he became the grizzled, mumbly savior of Burmese peasants, which meant killing the villains in ways more grisly than any torture porn. He kicks off the climactic massacre by hopping onto the mega-gun on the back of a jeep and firing it into the driver sitting maybe two feet away, bursting him into a million little bloody pieces. This used to be a children’s cartoon.
Character: Indiana Jones
Film: “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (2008)
Previous film: “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989)
Time elapsed: 19 years
No one much enjoys this fourth Indy romp, with a 60-something Ford largely grumpy and uninterested in working the wry charm that made the character such an atypically rich action hero. But it has more moments than it might have seemed at the time, and does a fine job dialing down the first three films’ casual xenophobia, if not outright racism (see: “Temple of Doom”’s treatment of Indian cuisine). So there’s that.
Character: Elwood Blues
Film: “Blues Brothers 2000” (1998)
Previous film: “The Blues Brothers” (1980)
Time elapsed: 18 years
Far more inventive than any “SNL” spinoff ever needed to be, the original took a questionable act — two white guys co-opting the blues, which part is not actually the joke — and piled on deadpan silliness and cars atop cars atop cars. This is another case where a movie is enough of a home video and TV staple to warrant a return to the well — except this is a case of that case where one of the two leads is long dead. And so Jake Blues was replaced by both John Goodman and, of course, a kid, and perhaps inevitably few of the few who saw it enjoyed it.
Character: Jake Gittes
Film: “The Two Jakes” (1990)
Previous film: “Chinatown” (1974)
Time elapsed: 16 years
Unlike some characters, Nicholson’s 1930s P.I. survives “Chinatown’s very ’70s downer ending. Indeed, screenwriter Robert Towne had envisioned a trilogy that would drop in on him every few years, hitting issues throughout Los Angeles history. (“Chinatown” dealt with water rights.) But troubles ensued, and by the time a sequel limped into theaters in the early ’90s, everyone’s drive was gone. Thing is, “Chinatown” already has another, great sequel, at least in spirit: “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” which concerned the erection of the city’s massive highway system. (That film’s funniest line isn’t delivered by a toon but by Bob Hoskins’ dic: “Who needs a car in L.A.? We have the best public transportation in the world!”)
Character: Michael Corleone
Film: “The Godfather Part III” (1990)
Previous film: “The Godfather Part II” (1974)
Time elapsed: 16 years
This should have been a swish: Reunite with the second part of one of America’s great sagas years later, with Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone trying to atone for his considerable sins. But by the ’90s Francis Ford Coppola had largely lost his ability to tell this kind of populist story, and his threequel is stiff where the originals were confident, and at times grossly miscalculated. (Sofia is indeed a terrible actor; her turn has not improved with age.) Still, there’s enough strong stuff here — notably Andy Garcia, as the loose cannon son of Talia Shire’s now vengeful Connie — that it’s not a complete bust.
Character: Catherine Tramell
Film: “Basic Instinct 2” (2006)
Previous film: “Basic Instinct” (1992)
Time Elapsed: 14 years
Even ignoring the trashy leg-crossing and enthusiastic bonk scenes, Stone’s breakthrough performance is something else — a legitimately charismatic, seductive powerhouse that hit viewers as mightily as it did Michael Douglas’ short-fused detective. A sequel was always a terrible idea, treating a compelling character like just another quippy franchise killer. That’s what it got with this pathetic, too-late sequel, which had the misfortune to come out shortly after Stone had given a few terrific, possibly career-salvaging performances. (She’s great in Jim Jarmusch’s “Broken Flowers.”) Then again, a sequel wasn’t totally a bad idea: at one point its director was to be David Cronenberg, who assured people it would have been “awesome.”
Character: James Bond
Film: “Never Say Never Again” (1983)
Previous film: “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971)
Time elapsed: 12 years
It’s bizarre but it happened: The same year the 13th Bond film, the Roger Moore-led “Octopussy,” was released, so was another, non-canonical Bond film, starring the previous 007, Sean Connery, plus a new toupee. (That said, Moore is actually three years older than Connery, so Connery being 53 wasn’t, relatively speaking, that old.) Through some Olympic legal maneuvering, another company had scored the rights to “Thunderball,” and decided to launch a competing franchise, even though the only Bond material they had was “Thunderball.” As it happened, the fight ended in a draw: Both films made about the exact same at the box office. It proved a franchise Thunderdome anyway; Connery would never say yes again, even though the official Bond line would suffer an undeserved Timothy Dalton-instigated hiccup before being saved by Pierce Brosnan.