Just how long can something go before it wears out?
For example, how long can a movie franchise last until it has little — if anything — to offer, until it's just an obvious money-grab?
Take "Despicable Me 3." My wife and I went to see it a couple of weeks ago — the only adults there without a child — and came away pretty unimpressed. We loved the first two "Despicable Me" films (and "Minions," too), but this one was flat, mostly unfunny and not engaging.
Thinking back, though, it seems like many movie franchises wear out their welcome when the third film comes out. Perhaps the filmmakers run out of ideas and just feel like they have to finish the trilogy — "Back to the Future 3," for instance. Sometimes it's obvious they're just trying to milk more money: "Cars 3," "Robocop 3," "Rush Hour 3," "Austin Powers in Goldmember."
"Return of the Jedi" was the weakest of the original "Star Wars" series but, conversely, "Revenge of the Sith" was the best of the second series. But when you've got the stunningly boring "The Phantom Menace" and the truly abysmal "Attack of the Clones" in front of you, how good do you have to be to be the best?
In the original "Spider-Man" series, the one with Tobey Maguire, "Spider-Man 3" was weakest. "Iron Man 3" didn't quite hold its own against the other two.
While "Return of the King" won an Oscar for Best Picture, it was more of a prize for all three "Lord of the Rings" movies than just the one. The "The Matrix" trilogy — "The Matrix Revolutions" — was mostly a way to tie up all the loose plot threads.
And "The Godfather III," well, let's not even go there.
But to contradict my entire premise, some of the third movies in a trilogy turn out to be the best of the bunch.
The final film in the Planet of the Apes trilogy, "War for the Planet of the Apes," is generally getting rave reviews. "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" was far better than the slapdash "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."
Some trilogies are good all the way through: the "Dark Knight," "The Lord of the Rings."
Then there are trilogies in which all three movies are a waste of film. Of course, some of these are made to be laughable. For example, "Dungeons and Dragons," "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (and the summer before that and the summer before that) and "Scream."
Trilogies are almost always a roll of the dice. By the time the third film rolls around, which may take years, interest can run thin. If the second film isn't too good, who wants to see a third?
But there was never any reason to make any of the "Ace Ventura" films.
Contact Shawn Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.