Judd Apatow’s This is 40, out this Friday, is — as its ads carefully note — a “sort-of sequel” to his 2007 hit Knocked Up. It doesn’t concern that film’s leading characters; Seth Rogen’s Ben is only mentioned in passing, and Katherine Hiegl’s Alison is absent altogether. Instead, Apatow focuses on supporting couple Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) and their two kids — played by Apatow and Mann’s real-life offspring. The idea of making a spin-off instead of a sequel is a fairly rare one; there are a few examples, like U.S. Marshalls (from The Fugitive), Get Him to the Greek (from Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Beauty Shop (from Barbershop 2) and Puss in Boots (from Shrek 2), but overall, it’s not all that common. Which is funny, because we think it’s a more interesting way to continue a franchise than the standard sequel, so after the jump, we’ve got suggestions for supporting characters we’d like to see bumped up to leads. (Warning: Some spoilers follow.)
This was sort of an easy leap, since Melissa McCarthy’s performance as the gregarious, no-shit, puppy-loving Megan was the highlight of another Apatow production. In that film, she was something of a counterbalance, the vulgar, rough-and-tumble opposite of more traditionally “girly” (but still funny) Kristen Wiig character at its center. But we’d be plenty happy with a Megan movie (maybe an update on her passionate fling with Air Marshal Jon?) — and besides, who’s not ready to see an all out “Melissa McCarthy movie”?
Edna Mode, The Incredibles
The Pixar galaxy is filled with memorable supporting characters — most of them just that, supplementary to the story at hand, not really imaginable on their own. But we’d love to spend some more time with Edna Mode, fashion designer to the stars (or super heroes, whatever). Modeled off legendary Hollywood costume designer Edith Head and voiced by Incredibles director Brad Bird, the film’s offhand mentions of the many previous superheroes she’s suited up indicate a rich background story that we’d love to see.
Pumpkin and Honey-Bunny, Pulp Fiction
Quentin Tarantino has said before that when he writes supporting characters, he writes them as though, for that scene, it’s their movie — they don’t know they’re not the lead. Nowhere is that affection for secondary players as clear as it is in his monster 1994 hit Pulp Fiction, which opens with an extended duet scene between Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and Honey-Bunny (Amanda Plummer), in which they bemoan the current state of liquor store stick-ups and decide, on the spot, to rob the diner the’re hanging out in. Their rat-tat-tat dialogue is so enjoyable and Roth and Plummer’s chemistry is so spot-on, we can’t help but imagine a full-on lovers-on-the-run vehicle for them — it’s been a while since Tarantino wrote one of those, and it sounds a helluva lot more appealing than that Vega Brothers movie we keep hearing about.
Sgt. Dingnam, The Departed
If you somehow still haven’t seen the Academy Award winner for Best Picture six years ago, well, consider this your spoiler alert. If you have, then you’ll recall that The Departed is a movie that (the sequels to its original source material notwithstanding) would be pretty difficult to continue, seeing’s how pretty much all of its major characters die during the course of the film. But there is one exception: the surly, nasty, foul-mouthed (even for a Scorsese movie) Sgt. Dingnam, played to perfection by Best Supporting Actor nominee Mark Wahlberg. With that film’s conclusion finding Dingnam shuffling away from the murder of a fellow — albeit crooked — cop, maybe there’s a story to be told in Dingnam’s new off-the-grid existence, righting wrongs and freelance vigilanting and so forth?
Bernie Rose, Drive
Again, another spoiler — Bernie Rose, the aging crime boss played with surprising credibility by the legendary Albert Brooks, does not make it out of Drive alive. Or does he? No, scratch that, he totally dies. But we’d be willing to go spin-off-slash-prequel on this one, just to have another opportunity to watch Brooks spend two hours glowering, growling, and stabbing people with forks. Make it happen, Hollywood!
Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men
The remarkable structure of Cormac McCarthy’s original novel presented No Country as three simultaneous stories, running concurrently but only occasionally intersecting: Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who discovers a cache of drug money; Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), the lawman trying to track him down; and Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), the cold-blooded hitman who’s trying to kill him. Bardem’s chilling characterization won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and we’re just dying to know what happened after the seemingly unkillable villain walked away from that car crash. On the other hand, maybe we’re not. We just got that guy out of our nightmares.
Make no mistake — we were firmly planted in the camp that found Ridley Scott’s long-teased Alien pseudo-prequel Prometheus to be shockingly dumb and infinitely unsatisfying. But there was one element that we loved: David, the quiet yet fascinating android beautifully played by the great Michael Fassbender. Caring for the ship, following his orders, and never missing an opportunity to watch Lawrence of Arabia, Fassbender’s robot is more convincing and compelling than the humans surrounding him, and while his (spoiler warning) dismemberment at the film’s end might spell the end for the character, let’s not forget that you can always make another android.
Buck Laughlin, Best in Show
One of the joys of Christopher Guest’s films is their overstuffed ensembles, full of comic characters who could easily carry a film of their own. But in looking over his oeuvre, one specific character leapt to the top of the list: Buck Laughlin, who sails in halfway through Best in Show and just plain steals the movie with his uproariously clueless color commentary for the climactic dog show. Willard also co-starred in Anchorman — would it be too much to ask for a film in that style, but focusing on washed-up sportscaster Buck?
Patches O’Houlihan, Dodgeball
Dodgeball is sort of forgotten these days, shuffled off as one of the lesser vehicles of the so-called “Frat Pack” that dominated movie comedy before the Apatow gang took over. But it’s a legitimately funny movie, and one its most enjoyable elements is Patches O’Houlihan, the gruff, tough, wrench-lobbing dodgeball coach brought to life by Rip Torn. And while the character’s untimely passing late in the film might make his spin-off potential slim, don’t forget: Hank Azaria appears as “Young Patches O’Houlihan,” in a vintage dodgeball training film. So your Patches O’Houlihan: The Early Years movie has already written itself.
Harry Lime, The Third Man
Maybe it’s jarring to jump from Dodgeball to Carol Reed’s masterpiece, but hey, we couldn’t leave this one off. Harry Lime is the enigmatic object of interest in The Third Man, but it is just a supporting character: our lead is Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), the old friend who’s trying to find him. Of course, we wouldn’t want to see this film now, since no one could bring Lime to life as well as the late, great Orson Welles. But he did the next best thing: he did a prequel radio series based on the character, called The Lives of Harry Lime, which aired a hearty 52 episodes.
Those are the supporting characters we’d like to see more of — tell us yours in the comments!