Friday, August 15, 2014

Anchorman 2: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Directed by Adam McKay.
2013. Rated PG-13, 119 minutes.
Will Ferrell
Steve Carell
Christina Applegate
Paul Rudd
David Koechner
Meagan Good
James Marsden
Kristen Wiig
Dylan Baker
Fred Willard
Harrison Ford

When we first catch back up to Ron Burgundy (Ferrell), he's co-anchoring the evening news in New York City with his wife Veronica (Applegate) at the dawn of the 1980s. Together, they share a happy marriage which includes their son Walter (Nelson). However, things fall apart instantly when Ron is passed over for a promotion to anchor the nightly national news show in favor of his wife. Soon, he's living in San Francisco, alone, and miserable because he's out of the news game all together. His fortunes change when he's hired by GNN, the first 24 hour news network. Blues Brothers style, he gets the band back together and travels back to the Big Apple for their new gig. Once there, he finds himself not only in competition for viewers with his estranged wife, but also with his own network's prime-time guy Jack Lime (Marsden). This is especially daunting given his 2 AM time slot. Hijinks and shenanigans ensue.

Anchorman 2 bolts out of the starting gates. The first half of the movie is as funny as the original. Part of this is due to how effectively it builds steam during the setup phase. It takes advantage of our excitement for seeing the crew back together by re-introducing the characters in brilliant ways. The most fun re-introduction belongs to Brick Tamland (Carell) and involves his funeral. In fact, Brick is probably the most fun character in the entire film. Also fun is the ambiguous feelings for Ron that Champ Kind (Koechner) displays through his actions. There are also a number of jokes rehashed from the original. However, they work early on. It's remarkable given the fact if you've seen the first movie, you're pretty much guaranteed to remember how funny those bits were.

While the re-introductions of old characters, intros to the new ones, and the occasional rehashing of familiar bits carries the first act, our source of humor changes a bit for act two. We focus squarely on tying those early days of cable to the current state of news reporting. For those of us old enough to remember what it was like back when there were only three major networks and news only came on at six and eleven, this is a sharp satire and truncation of three and a half decades of news dissemination. For younger viewers, it is at least effective at reminding you what things were like before the age of Twitter. The movie also gets mileage out of Ron Burgundy trying to get to know his son, the competition between Burgundy and Jack Lime, and the dynamics of interracial relationships. It does that last thing by putting Burgundy together with Linda Jackson (Good), his boss who happens to be both female and black, two facts that gave Ron and the boys cause for pause. Admittedly, it never really does anything other than use it for an excuse for Burgundy to act like an imbecile. It tries to show the ignorance of stereotypes, but loses something because Ron never gets it.

All the steam we've coasted on for the first two thirds of the movie is lost when the third act starts. Simply put, the whole thing falls apart. The first thing is that all the loose strands come together quickly, but the movie keeps going as if they hadn't. Therefore, the climax is drawn out and unfunny. The effectiveness of re-using jokes from the first movie peters out because they go to the well one too many time. On that last trip, they also bring out way too large a bucket. Not content to merely copy what happened the first time around, the movie crams itself full of what seems like the most cameos in cinematic history. The problem is that the movie assumes that seeing these familiar faces is inherently funny rather than giving them something funny to do. It wants us to go "Ha ha, that's Will Smith, hahahahahaha." However, it only gives us enough material to say "Hey, that's Will Smith." See the difference?

The nosedive taken at the end of the movie makes Anchorman 2 a frustrating experience. We're enjoying ourselves for quite a while. Next thing you know, we're cringing at how bad things have gotten. It flipped from being slyly clever in a way that appears stupid to actually being stupid. Even the cast seems worn out by this time. Our main characters don't have much to do and seem to be going through the motions for what they do have. It's pretty apparent because, like the rest of the movie, they had so much life earlier. They become relegated to the sidelines while a bunch of celebrities hijack the end of the movie for no good reason, at all. Maybe the writers or director Adam McKay didn't know how to end it, or couldn't agree on it. In any event, they did not reach the right conclusion.

MY SCORE: 6.5/10

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