Will Ferrell

Review: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

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Anchorman 2

The Pitch: Breaking news.

The Review: You know that thing? That thing where you’re at a party with some close friends, and you throw out an off the cuff remark that everyone finds unexpectedly funny, and you then spend the rest of the evening trying to match that comment and occasionally coming off as both funny and clever but never quite living up to that first comment? That.

Why see it at the cinema: If you’re an…

What, you want an actual review? Oh, go on then.

This isn’t going to hold too many surprises. So, I could spin this out with fancy words, possibly even a graph or a poem, but if you’ve seen the original, you’ll probably like this. It is two hours more of Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Steve Carell being Ron, Brian, Champ and Brick. If the sound of Ron Burgundy’s man child is like nails down a metaphorical blackboard, then this is just going to be a bunch more nails on a highly polished blackboard. If your not an Anchor-fan, move along, nothing to see here.

There is both a plot and a subplot of sorts. The plot revolves around Ron Burgundy’s initial fall from grace, which sees him fired from the network by intimidating anchor Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford) while his wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) is promoted. Down on his luck and in a dead-end job commentating on dolphins at a water park, Burgundy is offered a lifeline by producer Freddy Shapp (Dylan Baker) at new 24 hour news network GNN. Burgundy and his reassembled news team come instantly into conflict with hotshot anchor Jack Lime (James Marsden) and feisty producer Linda Jackson (Meagan Good). Ron also has to deal with the consequences of his separation from Veronica, her new partner Gary (Greg Kinnear) and their son caught up in the separation, as well as newfound romantic feelings for Linda. If that wasn’t enough, Brick is also forming a romantic attachment to like minded simpleton Chani (Kristen Wiig).

Everything you liked about the first film is back here, from unexpected songs to rapidly escalating fights. You’ll not be surprised to hear Brick still doing his best impersonation of a live action Ralph Wiggum with added shouting, Champ behaving generally inappropriately and ignorantly, Brian keeping more stores of lovemaking material in his secret wall cabinet and Ron frequently misunderstanding the most basic of situations. Despite his many and varied flaws, Ron remains the glue that binds the group together and the group works as well as ever, the four leads slipping effortlessly back into their roles. Rumours about that there exists a second cut of the film with different takes of all the jokes, but the random improvisation feels slightly more forced this time out (compare and contrast “Great Odin’s Raven!” with “By the hymen of Olivia Newton-John!”). Despite a reputation for this kind of improv humour, it’s the big set pieces which often work best here, including a trip to the city in a Jesus-covered Winnebago and an extended sequence on a lighthouse.

There is a little innovation here, mostly in the supremely broad satire suggesting that Burgundy and his crew were inadvertently responsible for the state of rolling news today. The voiceover is more heavily used than in the first film, Bill Curtis’ deep tones explaining the simplest of plot points for anyone who sees Brick as an intellectual role model. Mostly though, Anchorman 2 gets by on new riffs on old material and certainly feels very familiar: for example, the battle of the sexes between Ron and Veronica in the original is instead replaced by a culture clash between Ron and Linda’s family in a spectacularly offensive dinner table scene this time around. Sometimes that familiarity works against the film, but when it works in its favour (such as in the climactic anchor fight, taking the original and amping it up by a factor of 10, and well handled by director Adam McKay) then Anchorman 2 is very funny indeed. It has no real pretensions to anything other than very silly, and it achieves that goal often enough to be considered a reasonable success. Did the world need more Ron Burgundy? Probably not. Does it feel marginally more laboured than the original? Undoubtedly yes. Should the world breathe a heavy sigh of relief that they managed not to screw it up completely? Definitely. You stayed classy, Ron Burgundy. Just.

Why see it at the cinema: If you’re an Anchorman fan, then see it with the biggest crowd you can to make the most of the laughs. Ideally, before someone spoils all of the surprises for you.

What about the rating? Rated 15 for infrequent strong sex references and hard drug use. Remember kids, taking crack is bad, mmm’kay?

My cinema experience: Took a half day from work to catch this at the first screening of the day in the Cineworld Bury St Edmunds. There was a surprisingly large crowd, no doubt due to the close proximity to Christmas, and the crowd were all clearly well up for it given their heavy laughter at the Last Vegas trailer (which I’ve now seen around a dozen times). Thankfully this laughter carried over into the film itself and enhanced my viewing pleasure no end. You stay classy, Bury St Edmunds.

The Score: 7/10

Review: The Other Guys

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The Pitch: Dragnet 2: Curse Of The Man-Child.

The Review: Another year, another Will Ferrell comedy. The best of these have been his collaborations with director Adam McKay, although I say that with reservations. Anchorman remains, in this reviewer’s opinion at least, one of the most consistent and funniest comedies of the Noughties, Talladega Nights was great, but Step Brothers was resolutely average, and most of Ferrell’s other comedies in the last few years have been patchy at best. Part of the problem here is over-exposure; Ferrell used up most of his supply of funny man-child shouting idiocy in Anchorman, and ever since the subtle variations on the character have worn increasingly thin.

Much of the enjoyment has come from the supporting characters in these movies, and The Other Guys certainly doesn’t skimp on the other talent. Sharing top billing this time is Mark Wahlberg, who doesn’t have much of a track record as far as comedy is concerned (as long as you exclude the unintentional hilarity of The Happening), but in the same way as John C. Reilly in Talladega Nights, his interplay with Ferrell is one of the highlights and the two form an uneasy partnership that allows both to have moments to shine. Samuel L. Jackson and Duane Johnson are an all too brief highlight at the beginning, and Michael Keaton reminds us why he was so great in the comedies of yesteryear, but on this occasion too few others make an impression.

In terms of the plot itself, there is a curious mix of the slightly serious (Steve Coogan plays a Bernie Madoff-style character almost straight) and the outlandishly humourous (the movie is littered with sub-plots, such as the use of Ferrell’s character’s Prius as a hang-out spot for homeless guys), and takes an awfully long time to feel as if it’s heading anywhere interesting. Not a problem for previous Ferrell / Mckay movies, but there’s more plot attempted here and McKay suggests attempts at more narrative thrust than in previous efforts but somehow allows things to meander a little too much.

The big question, of course, is “Is it funny?”, and the answer is, “To a point.” Wahlberg is great, especially in his reactions to Ferrell’s unlikely wife (Eva Mendes), Ferrell is a little more dialled-down than in his last couple which kind of works, there’s a few cracking set pieces and the way in which our heroes slowly rise to prominence does generate laughs along the way, but there’s few standout moments that are the equivalent of the earlier efforts by Ferrell and McKay, and some of the jokes (Keaton’s inexplicable TLC references) are stretched rather too thin, having not been that funny in the first place. In an odd way, it almost works better as a Lethal Weapon 3-style buddy action comedy, with the emphasis on the action rather than the comedy, but there a feeling of missed opportunity here. Shame.

Why see it at the cinema: McKay actually does at least a comparable job of shooting action as most of this year’s major action movies, so those scenes alone deserve a big screen viewing, and there are a few big belly laughs to share. If you like your statistics, then the end credits will also be worth seeing, as The Other Guys turns into a bizarrely serious Michael Moore film once the names start to roll.

The Score: 6/10