Monday, December 30, 2013

"Anchorman 2" review

It took over nine years for another Anchorman film to happen, but finally, it's here. The first feature film from the McKay/Ferrell duo has developed a large cult following over the years and it's probably their most famous collaboration so far. Despite the fact that the other three films they made together wound up grossing more money, everyone quotes Anchorman. Sometimes they quote Step Brothers, but really, it's all about Anchorman.

Fans had been begging for a sequel for years but many seem to forget that pulling off a comedy sequel is not a simple job. There have been very few great comedy sequels made over the years with too many of them falling victim to not being able to live up to the first. Many sequels are made just to please fans of the first. There's callbacks to the first movie, rehashing of jokes, an overload of cameos----"Anchorman 2" is guilty of those things here. Luckily, the movie still retains much of the charm from the first film and it has a great concept that very much validates a sequel. McKay and Ferrell allow the characters to grow a little and give them an interesting premise to work with. I just wish they would've done more with it.

When we meet Ron Burgandy, he has a seven year old son with his wife Veronica Corningstone. She and Ron anchor the evening news and all seems well until their boss fires Ron. Naturally, being the egomaniac he is, Ron is not happy about the news one bit. He and Veronica separate. Before he can hang himself to end his life, Burgandy gets an offer to host a 24-hour cable news channel. Feeling reinvigorated, Ron gathers his old news team together (Champ, Brick, and Brian Fantana) and they take a drive to New York City to work for GNN.

Ron's team gets assigned the 2-5am timeslot. While they don't take too kindly to this at first, Ron has the ingenious idea to give audiences what they want instead of what they need. So they start reporting an abundance of stories about cats, car chases... all with an overly patriotic tone that Americans suddenly become drawn to. The surprise success of the timeslot wins over their billionaire Australian boss and Ron gets special attention from his sexy boss named Linda Jackson... even if her skin color initially made him feel uncomfortable.

"Anchorman 2" is packed with jokes and it's at its best when it goes into this fun, new direction with this cast. They're able to mine a lot of material out of the 24/7 news operation, making it an obvious riff against CNN and Fox News, but they only really scratch the surface with it. Again, there are a few too many callbacks to the first film, a few too many repeats of jokes from the first film that kind of bog things down. They just seem so unnecessary and appear to be there for fan service only. When the film enters bizarre territory is when it really shines, like when Ron goes through another downward spiral, starts living in a lighthouse, and bottle feeds his pet shark. McKay/Ferrell have continued to delve into weird territory ever since "Step Brothers" and it's what excites me about their films. They manage to let their comedies go off in strange directions without it going completely off the rails.

That is, until the giant cable news brawl that happens at the end of "Anchorman 2." While cameo appearances can be fun, the need to top the first film's news brawl just felt a little too tacked on especially since the fight seems wedged in towards the end. I won't reveal the cameos, but the scene goes a little overboard after awhile.

In fact, there really was no need to drag the film to a 119-minute running time. What makes "Anchorman" so watchable is that it moves at a brisk 95-minute pace. "Anchorman 2" gets a little too self-indulgent at times and the film is a little too in love with itself. But there are still a lot of great moments that are just pure gold, such as Brick Tamland's love interest (played by Kristen Wiig). 

At the very least, some of the jokes they rehash in the film are well-escalated. But still, some were rather unnecessary. I loved Brian Fantana's stash of condoms, which was a callback to his cologne bar at his old job in San Diego. But we didn't need a reference to his sex panther cologne on top of that. I liked it when they put little twists on jokes they introduced in the first film, I wish they could've just left it at that.

But hey, I can't really complain about what we're left with overall even though "Anchorman 2" really could have been a much greater comedy. There were so many directions they could've gone with their premise, they didn't even need the subplot with Ron's kid. Nevertheless, the chemistry among the four leads is so electric, so fun to watch... honestly, I wouldn't mind seeing an "Anchorman 3." It may not be as memorable as the first, but "Anchorman 2" was still a lot of fun.

Grade: B

No comments: