Sunday, December 29, 2013

Every Ship Needs An Anchor

Year: 2013
Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd
Run Time: 1 hour 59 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Although I know in my heart that I've seen 2004's Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, I can't for the life of me remember a single thing about it. So that leaves me in a bittersweet spot approaching its nearly a decade later sequel. On one hand, I can come at it with a pair of fresh eyes, but on the other, I have no idea what the hell is going on.

Perhaps it's for the best, because I seemed to enjoy it markedly more than fans of the original.

Heathens just don't know how to appreciate a good cowboy hat.

The plot picks up in real time in 1980 - about nine years after the events of the original. When Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is passed over for a big New York promotion in favor of his wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), he loses control of his life. He abandons Veronica and their son Walter (Judah Nelson) and moves back to San Diego.

After hitting rock bottom, he is approached by producer Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker) to be an anchor for a brand new station in New York - the Global News Network, the world's first 24-hour news station. Seeing that this would put him in direct competition with his estranged wife, he takes the position and reassembles his old news team.

Once he gathers Champ Kind (David Koechner) the racist cowboy sportscaster, Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) the sleazy field reporter, and Brick (Steve Carell) the eccentric weatherman, they head off to New York and start brainstorming ways to make their 2AM - 5AM slot a ratings bonanza.

Singlehandedly inventing fluff news, Ron Burgundy quickly shoots to superstardom at the expense of his friends and family, at which point the plot structure adheres to that of every other movie of this type. You know how it goes. Right down to the idea that he can't miss his son's piano recital. Let's not get into that.

Why discuss that when we can discuss how Paul Rudd rocks that perm?

You can't go in expecting sophistication, although I don't know why you would. But Anchorman 2 is surprisingly slim on the lowbrow humor and high on absurdity. You still have to sit back and shut off your brain's filter and let it all wash over you unadulterated. And even though your face may look like this:

 more often than not, gosh darn it you're gonna laugh.

There are quite a few belly laughs to be had in Anchorman 2 (and quite a few angry stares from other theater patrons who need to remove the sticks from their butts) and most of my notes are rendered completely useless because I spent most of the time just writing down my favorite jokes.

Perhaps it would be better at a taut 90 minutes, but no individual part felt particularly saggy or dragged out. And there are several scenes (not to give them away, but look for a shark, a park, and interracial sex) that are all laugh out loud funny and patently absurd. This film is essentially a live action cartoon and the veritable avalanche of celebrity cameos and escalation that occurs makes me pray they'll never make an Anchorman 3 because it's impossible to top.

It's all good natured and totally weird in a way that safe studio comedies haven't allowed themselves to be in quite a while and I really respect that.

Although I wish they had released promotional still that had ANY other character in them.

The film's biggest sin is being a little too on the nose about why things are funny. Most of Will Ferrell's lines pointedly explain the punchlines of other jokes in a way that's incredibly insulting to the intelligence of the audience.

In fact, throughout the entire film Ferrell's performance is of a particularly grating and pedantic vein that could have derailed the entire film if it weren't for a stellar supporting cast. Steve Carell is great as the non sequitur-spouting Brick and has great chemistry with Kristen Wiig. Wiig plays a love interest of equal dopiness and I'd say she's underutilized but perhaps any more of those characters would have been a little too much.

Aside from Ferrell, the only other weak link is Judah Nelson. Although it's perhaps not fair to bemoan a child actor's terrible performance, the kid might as well have been wearing a carrot costume on an elementary school stage for all the wide-eyed and wildly unmodulated line readings he gave.

All in all, Anchorman 2 is a fun film that has natural laughs and a less questionable use of female characters than other films in its vein (although there's still progress to be made). As a sequel, it uses callback and character humor well while still standing largely on its own as a separate entity. It's not perfect, but it's lively and fun entertainment.

TL;DR: Anchorman 2 isn't going to be a cult classic like its predecessor, but it's a good natured and absurdly fun comedy.
Rating: 7/10
Should I Spend Money On This? Why not catch a matinee? Don't overpay but it's an enjoyable way to pass the time.
Word Count: 883

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