By Eleanor Ringel Cater
There’s a story I’ve been telling for years about sequels, but it is so appropriate in the case of “Taken 2” that I can’t resist telling it again.
Back in the 1980s, after “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” became a big hit, Paul Reubens, aka Pee-wee Herman, was asked if he planned on making a sequel.
What would happen, he replied. They steal my bike again?
Well, that is alarmingly close to what has happened with “Taken” and its imaginatively titled sequel (that would be “Taken 2”). The first film was both a surprise and a guilty pleasure. Here was Herr Schindler himself, the voice of Aslan, Jean Valjean, even Zeus, playing a slightly-over-the-hill former black ops CIA agent named Bryan Miller.
But when his pretty teenage daughter takes off for a seemingly harmless trip to Paris and is abducted by Albanian thugs in the sex-trafficking business, Miller springs into action. He spends most of the movie’s 93 minutes fighting his way through hundreds of thickly-accented bad guys to rescue her.
It was a confoundingly enjoyable picture — one that blended writer Luc Besson’s patented blood-letting with Neeson’s heroic Celtic melancholy.
It earned well over $200 million worldwide.
So, with that kind of money floating through the boxoffice window, a sequel was inevitable. Thus, four years later, “Taken 2” which is about stealing that bike all over again. Or, in this case, abducting any given member of Miller’s family.
After that last lovely holiday overseas, Miller decides it would be a great idea to take his daughter (Maggie Grace) and, this time, his ex-wife (Famke Janssen), back abroad. This time, to Turkey which is surprisingly close to…Albania.
And wouldn’t you know it.? Someone gets taken all over again. Actually most of the Miller family get taken at one time or another because the father — I think I’ve got this right — of one of the many now-dead sex-trafficking Albanians wants vengeance for his son’s death. He may not have been a good boy, but still…
I probably wouldn’t even be writing about “Taken 2” except that it has been the number one movie in the country for two weeks in a row. And this week saw the opening of the movie that most of Hollywood is banking on to be the magic elixir of thrills and patriotism: “Argo,” based on the true story and truly improbably (but TRUE) of a secret mission to rescue six Americans from 1979 Iran.
“Argo” has a Hollywood pedigree (Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Alan Arkin), critical acclaim, a gripping tale of daring and ingenuity and Oscar mojo.
And it came in second to “Taken 2.”
Ah, the movie-going public. They can be harder to figure out than hostage-taking Iranians. I can only imagine the gnashing of teeth going on at Fox, the studio that released “Argo.”
No wonder there’s already a “Taken 3” in the works. What will the bad guys take this time? The family dog?