Saturday January 04, 2014
Movie Review: Anchorman 2 (2013)
Why do I laugh so hard for the first half-hour of a good Will Ferrell movie and then not much after that? Because the plot kicks in? Even when it’s a mockery of other movie plots? Like when the protagonist realizes his dream at the expense of his friends but then goes blind after an ice-skating incident and lives alone in a lighthouse until his estranged wife and child show up and they all reconnect, and nurse back to health a shark they name Doby, which is loved by the awful, awful, child actor of a boy (Judah Nelson), and life is suddenly so good that the estranged wife doesn’t even tell her husband that, yes, his sight can be restored, and it is, just in time for him to reclaim his throne if he’s willing to do what he’s always done—ignore his son’s needs and his own professional ethics—but at the 11th hour, no, he can no longer do that, so he leaves behind the ethical messiness of his job to make, with his reunited friends, the heroic, triumphant run across town to see his boy play.
All of that, in ‘Anchorman 2,” isn’t bad, but it didn’t make me laugh out loud like the first half-hour.
This is the stuff that made me laugh out loud:
- The open with Ron Burgundy swimming frantically away from the shark.
- Drunken SeaWorld.
- “Chicken of the caves.”
- “Why do you have this bag of bowling balls and this terrarium filled with scorpions?” and its slow-mo aftermath.
- “Black. Black. Black.”
- “Pull yourself together, man. You sound like a balloon.”
And not just laughing out loud but almost having trouble breathing. That was Woody’s dream once, wasn’t it? Pre-Bergman? To have the audience laughing so hard they’d beg the cameraman to stop the film? That’s almost how I felt here.
Then the plot kicked in and it was kinda silly and kinda funny but it wasn’t the same.
How “Anchorman 2” is like “Wolf of Wall Street”
Even so, I’d say “Anchorman 2” is the funniest 2013 movie I’ve seen. I mean, what’s the competition? It was a pretty shitty year for comedies: “Identity Thief” and “The Internship” tried to make laughs out of massive social anxieties and massively failed. “Admission” and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” simply massively failed. “The Heat” and “The World’s End” brought some laughs, smarter laughs from the latter, but not laughs like Ferrell and company brought here.
The plot if you want it: It’s 1980 and Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) is now in NYC doing the weekend news with his wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) when they’re called into the office of news legend Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford, in the first of the film’s many cameo guest stars). Even Ford gets off a good line:
Mack: I killed four men at Okinawa.
Ron (nodding): Ah. World War II.
Mack: No, last week.
Mack is looking for a potential replacement and chooses Veronica while firing Ron, who is, he says, “the worst newsman I’ve ever seen.” Then Ron, in full, pouty man-boy mode, tells Veronica to choose him or the news and ... you know. Six months later he’s fired from a hosting gig at SeaWorld and tries to hang himself. But ah! Cable news is being born, GNN, the 24 hour news network, for which Ron reassembles his team (Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Steve Carrell) to work the 2:00-5:00 AM slot. There, Ron has a brilliant idea: Why keep giving people the news they need to hear? Why not give them the news they want to hear? Meaning stories of cute animals and footage of high-speed car chases and an overall and overweening patriotic edge. (The owner of GNN is even Australian.) Remember Ron’s sign-off from the first movie? “Stay classy, San Diego”? Here it becomes: “Don’t just have a great night; have an American night.” It’s just a small step to Sean Hannity.
Of course Ron’s ratings go through the roof and everyone follows his lead and we wind up with the world we live in now with all the dreck we’re shoveled. In this way, “Anchorman 2” is as much an indictment of its audience as “The Wolf of Wall Street.” It’s almost as if Hollywood is finally getting tired of what stupid pansy asses we all are; how much wish-fulfillment we need. It’s almost as if they’re tired of lying to us.
Chris Cross, etc.
Was 1980 the worst year for music ever? The soundtrack here is awesomely bad: “Ride Like the Wind” by Christopher Cross and “Driver’s Seat” by Sniff ‘n the tears and “Let it Ride” by BTO and—holy crap—“Thunder Island” by Jay Ferguson. It’s all late-1970s AM moosh.
There are misses in the movie, of course. The romance between Carrell’s Brick and Kristen Wiig’s equally dense Chani Lastnamé is as limited as their characters. The dinner over at the home of Linda Jackson (Meagan Good) brings nothing, nor does her sudden interest in Ron, which is kind of creepy. The epic anchorman battle from 2004 is reprised on an international level to include the BBC (led by Sacha Baron Cohen), ESPN (Will Smith), Canadian news (Jim Carrey and Marion Cotillard), Entertainment Tonight (Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) and the History Channel (Liam Neeson). All the cameos are eye-popping but only Carrey brings the laughs.
But if you’re looking for laughs, this is where you’ll find them. By the hymen of Olivia Newton John. And, yes, by Tony Danza’s scrotum.