Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It Came From The Cineplex: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues was directed by Adam McKay. It was written by McKay and Will Farrell.

McKay seems to have based his career almost solely on Will Farrell vehicles, as he also directed the Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers and The Other Guys. Hey, a job's a job, I guess.

I was never much of a fan of the first film. I know millions love it and still quote it endlessly, but it just didn't connect with me. It's been so long since it came out (nine years!) that I can barely remember anything about it. I had to look up a plot synopsis online to refresh my memory.

I feel much the same way about this new film. I don't dislike it per se, it's just sort of… there. It's not terrible, but I wouldn't call it good either. It just sort of lies there like a beached whale, hoping someone will come along and roll it back into the ocean.


The Plot:
In 1980, Ron Burgundy and his wife Veronica Corningstone are co-anchors of a news show in New York. When Burgundy is fired, he hits rock bottom before being hired by GNN, the world's first 24 hour cable news network. Burgundy brings his old news team-- Brian Fantana, Champ Kind and Brick Tamland-- out of retirement for the GNN launch.

After their news show initially gets abysmal ratings, Burgundy hits upon the novel idea of giving people the news they want to hear, not what they need to hear. The ratings skyrocket, and "Entertainment Journalism" is born.

• If you enjoyed the first film, you'll probably like this one as well. It's pretty much the same movie. All the same characters are back for this one, as well as most of the plot points. Burgundy gets fired and wallows in self pity, he makes a comeback and there's a rumble with gangs of rival news casters. They even reused the "Baxter The Dog Saves Burgundy From A Wild Animal" bit!

• The film has a surprisingly insightful and relevant message about the current state of cable news networks. I'd wish they'd concentrated more on that angle and less on the buffoonery. They'd have had an intelligent satire on their hands.

• Real life newsman Bill Kurtis narrated both films. You know, if I was a serious broadcast journalist whose job depended on my credibility, I think I'd steer clear of films that spoof TV news and anchormen.

• It took me a while to recognize Dylan Baker in the film! He's becoming quite the chameleon

• For a film that bills itself as a comedy, there are vast stretches of screen time in which the laughs are few and far between. Anchorman 2 clocks in at 119 minutes, which is unusually long for a comedy. Some editing definitely seems in order.

For example: the scenes between Brick Tamland and his new love interest Chani went absolutely nowhere. There was no payoff whatsoever to this subplot. You could excise every single one of their scenes and it wouldn't affect the plot one bit.

Same thing with the the Doby the shark scenes. They appear to have been added to the film solely to pad out the run time.

• The dinner scene in which Ron Burgundy meets his black girlfriend's family were downright cringe-worthy. Not because of any racial tension mind you, but because we've seen this exact situation and the exact same jokes many, many, MANY times before.

• The movie's set in 1980, so you know what that means: Anachronisms ahoy! I guess you shouldn't expect much in the way of historical accuracy from a comedy like this, so I won't dwell too much on it. It is pretty sloppy though. It's not like they're made a movie set 500 years ago when records were spotty. Every single person who worked on this film was probably alive in 1980 and should know better.

Most of the anachronisms involve vehicles that didn't exist at the time. Those don't bother me much, because I know little or nothing about makes and models of cars. Several mistakes did jump out at me though. At one point Brick quotes Ghostbusters, which didn't premiere until 1984. Also during the "News Anchor Battle," a gang of MTV video deejays show up. Whoops! MTV didn't start up until 1981.

The oddest of the anachronisms involves Burgundy narrating a live car chase between the police and a white SUV. It's pretty obvious they're trying to evoke O.J. Simpson and his infamous white Bronco, but that particular low point in our nation's history occurred in 1994, a full fourteen years after this movie is set. Weird.

• I enjoyed the surprise cameos at the end. I won't spoil them here, since they were the one highlight of the film. 

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is a mostly tepid comedy, but buried deep inside it is some incisive commentary about the state of cable news. With some extensive editing to tighten up the pace and get rid of some superfluous elements, it could have been a smart little film. I give it a B-.

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