The discipline-straddling British polymath, Margaret Boden—philosopher, social psychologist, and cognitive scientist who once trained in medicine—argues that recombination fuels much creativity. She maintains that putting together disparate elements in novel ways is one of the thought processes that creative people use to start the engine that drives innovation and invention. History records the stellar effects in memorable breakthroughs in literature, art, technology, and science. But our jokes, puns, quips, and comebacks—the ones we usually forget—make ordinary conversations sparkle everyday.
I decided to put the combinatory theory of creativity to the test by inventing and playing a simple game with film scenarios. One tricky rule made the game fun for me: each of these new films needed to be a sequel to two different movies—double sequels. From a longer list a small panel of judges, hastily assembled, picked these top 10 winners.
- Jane Eyrehart. A lonely schoolmarm turned aviatrix finds happiness teaching English as a second language to carefree South Sea Islanders after crash-landing on their beach.
- Planet of the Abes. A laboratory chimp’s space capsule lands on a parallel earth where Abraham Lincoln and his clone serve as co-presidents of Israel.
- Around the World in Eighty Subs. The world’s navies pursue a zany Soviet submarine commander as they compete to win a prize for circumnavigating the globe underwater.
- It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Max. A group of comedians seek a buried treasure in post-apocalypse Australia.
- The King’s Speechwriter. Her Majesty’s Secret Service recruits a blacklisted McCarthy-era comic to uncover the mole operating in the royal retinue.
- Arsenic and Old Mace. An aging detective falls in love with the sisters who euthanized his ex-partner.
- The Sword in the Scone. During sweeps week a pastry chef falls under suspicion of murder and he calls in the wizard Merlin to help absolve him of the crime.
- Please Don’t Eat Miss Daisy. An efficiency expert with a large family hires a driver who had been raised by bears.
- The Nutty Successor. A magician brews a potion that makes him look exactly like the king’s dashing half-brother.
- Chakras of Fire. A bikram devotee defies fundamentalist elders in a small, Midwest town to stage a competitive hot yoga event.
The best mind games invite you to play a game with the game, insuring that creativity also delivers a dividend of continuing fun. So, I leave you with three questions. Did you easily guess the parent prequels? Could you resist casting the leads in these movies? And did you create your own recombinant scenarios for more double sequels?