The Review: Steve Carell and Tina Fey – two of the most popular comedy stars of the small screen in the USA. So it seems inevitable in retrospect that someone would have wanted to put them in a comedy together onscreen. The problem is, they’ve ended up in one made by Shawn Levy, who’s managed to turn out two sizeable box office hits in the Night At The Museum franchise, but otherwise has done little to help the comedy careers of those in his movies (and he’s had a good go at finishing off the career of Steve Martin).
So we end up with a fairly polished product, but one with a very direct plot, which consequently requires the characters to keep churning out exposition at regular intervals, and that in turn seems to stifle the actors’ comedy instincts and process. Carell and Fey demonstrate repeatedly that they are at their best when the action stops and they can just riff of each other and improvise, as also proved by the end credit out-takes.
The plot would actually implode if you thought about it for more than a few seconds, so unlikely are the set of events the characters work their way through. On that journey, the standouts are Mark Wahlberg as a put-upon security expert and James Franco, once again showing his gifts are probably best suited to comedy. But any film that has to resort to Ray Liotta as a rent-a-mafia-head is not going to win awards for originality.
But it’s Carell and Fey who keep the whole show moving, and their easy chemistry makes this periodically entertaining – I would be lying if I said I didn’t laugh out loud a couple of times – but you can’t escape the feeling that they both deserve a little better than this.
Why see it at the cinema: There’s a couple of set pieces, especially the car chase, that will reward those who choose to spend their date night at the cinema.
The Score: 6/10
I’m new to this blogging malarkey, but also fairly new to this Twitter business. However, my first experience is that all it brings is doom and gloom. From Adam McKay’s Twitter feed last night, came this:
“So bummed. Paramount basically passed on Anchorman 2. Even after we cut our budget down. We tried.”
Followed about four hours later by this:
“To all who asked: no we can’t do Anchorman 2 at another studio. Paramount owns it.”
Maybe it’s understandable in the current economic climate a studio not wanting to take a risk, but there were enough good commercial reasons here for Paramount to feel that this wasn’t a risk at all, as well as some less commercial reasons.
1. Comedy sequels regularly do good business
What do the following franchises have in common? American Pie, Harold and Kumar, Austin Powers and The Naked Gun? In each case, the most successful movie at the US and worldwide box office wasn’t the first movie. In Austin Powers’ case, the take was around four times that of the original. Each of these franchises are live action comedies, not targeted at a family audience. Now of course, for every Naked Gun there’s a Police Academy, but Anchorman should have had enough going for it to ease any such concerns.
2. It may not need to make that much money anyway to make a profit
I know nothing at all in actuality about movie economics and profit making, but the beauty of blogging is that it doesn’t stop me speculating. Back in the 1920s, when all of the money made by movies was made in the cinema, it was said that a movie had to make two and a half times its budget in its theatrical run to turn a profit. Since then, the advent of videos and then DVD have changed the market drastically, and the majority of profits now come from DVD sales and rentals. Given that the original made $85 million in the US alone off a $26 million outlay. Now while the sequel would be likely to cost nearer $100 million, based on the higher profiles of the talent involved, the opportunity for some double-dipping with the DVD, such as releases alongside the original, would surely have helped to offset any cost concerns. And other Will Ferrell movies like Talladega Nights and The Other Guys aren’t cheap, but they’re still getting made.
3. There’s a strong, and young, fanbase
Without conducting extensive polling exercises or market research (which are out of my current resources, for I am a mere blogger), it would be good to know what the audience reaction would likely be to such a sequel. Well, here’s where internet sites such as the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes come in.
Consider the Austin Powers comparison. Comparable ratings on these sites (7.1 out of 10 on IMDb and 65% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes; 7.0 and 64% for Anchorman, and around 75,000 voters on both movies on IMDb). But when looking at the demographic breakdowns on Anchorman, Anchorman scores a much higher percentage of 10/10 scores of the total votes and has better scores in the under 18 and 18-25 demographics and also scores equally well with males and females at those ages. So surely
4. The cast will sell the movie more than they were able to originally
When the original was released, Paul Rudd was probably best known as Phoebe’s boyfriend in Friends and Steve Carell was one of those guys off The Daily Show. Since the original came out, Carell has made Little Miss Sunshine, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Get Smart, Date Night and The Office, and Rudd has also stepped up to bigger roles in the last couple of years, with Knocked Up, Role Models and I Love You, Man, and they’ll be reteaming this summer for Dinner For Schmucks. If you put a teaser trailer together with no footage, no Anchorman 2 title card but just the names of the lead actors, you would get bums on seats. Are we suggesting that if they thought it was an Anchorman sequel, it would be less appealing than that?
5. There could be two movies for the price of one
One of the original’s most appealing features wasn’t the movie at all, it was the deleted scenes. There were so many that they were formed into another feature, which almost acts as an alternate universe story to the original – certain aspects (Veronica going to the show, for example) appearing in both, but there’s also a stack of new material here, and the best bits are as good as the original. For example:
If a similar amount of footage is filmed this time, take the opportunity and make a second, fully formed feature out of the offcuts, almost guaranteeing an absolute stack of money. It’s like the Sex Panther of marketing strategies. (And if you’ve seen Anchorman, but not Wake Up, Ron Burgundy, go seek it out now. Stop reading this and go. Go on.)
6. Will Ferrell actually needs a hit, and this is his best character
Will Ferrell has made a career out of Shouty Man-Child (TM), but Ron Burgundy is undoubtedly the most rounded and nuanced (and arguably grown up) of these characters. Through Talladega Nights, Semi Pro, Step Brothers and Land of the Lost, there’s been a law of diminishing returns in action. The best way to turn this around would be to allow Ferrell to go back to the original, and best, character he’s created.
7. Because it’s Anchorman, for crying out loud
I don’t need to paste in links here to news stories to remind you of the world we live in, and how serious it is at the moment. Anchorman was one of the best exponents of consistent quality silliness of the first decade of this century. Endlessly quotable, with surreal scenarios, it was also elevated by the touching love story with added competitiveness and swearing between Burgundy and Corningstone, but the defining quality was the undoubted bond between the four anchormen, and their constant battle to triumph over adversity. So please, Paramount, dig into your pockets and allow this to become a reality. Because the world needs more Burgundy.
Did I mention I preferred Dodgeball?