Sunday, 22 December 2013

Film Review: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

Director: Adam McKay
Writers: Will Ferrell & Adam McKay
Stars: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy had a budget of $26 million and made $95 million at the global box office, but found a cult following on DVD which gradually found a wider audience as its stars gained popularity. The fact that not one comedy featuring Will Ferrell, Steve Carell or Paul Rudd has even come close to hitting the comedic genius of that small, little known film from 2004 serves as both a testament to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and an indictment to the wasted talent which followed in the nine years since.

Fast forward nine years and the sequel costs $50 million, has been promoted at every possible opportunity on TV, online, in print, and has had glitzy premieres all over the world. The final product feels from start to finish like the very thing I feared it would be; a cash grab which produces many smiles and chuckles but precious few instances of genuine comedic brilliance.

Like, I’m sure, many of you reading this, I’ve seen Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy countless times in the past nine years and the quotes and scenarios still make me laugh today just thinking about them. It was fresh, crazy, raw, unpredictable, satirical, and above all genuinely hilarious. Anchoman 2 is certainly satirical when commenting on the dumbing down of news thanks to 24 hours channels, but the it feels surprisingly stale and lacking the structure to make the madness work.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy had structure and at its heart a story which was both irrelevant yet invaluable to the premise. Burgundy is the main man when we meet him and his and his team’s arrogance allows the nonsense to work; when his world is rocked by Victoria Corningstone, the characters get their arcs and actions have consequences, regardless how ridiculous. In the sequel there is nothing left to discover about any of the characters; we know Brick is stupid, we know Bryan is sleazy, and we know Ron is, well, Ron. Because of this, the sequel just throws endless gags at the audience without any set up which makes the film essentially a two hour sketch show; and after 45 minutes the lack of discipline in the writing begins to show and the film actually becomes more tiresome than amusing.

The film suffers the same fate as so many sequels in that it tries to cater to fan service in the most uninspired of ways. So many scenes from the first film are copied here; Brian’s cologne collection is replaced with condoms; Ron’s breakdown is replaced with temporary blindness; the news team battle is copied again but bigger this time. It’s a checklist of what worked in 2004 and it’s laziness at the audience’s expense. Whereas the first film still plays out as a fresh and madcap story, the sequel feels strained to come up with scenes and ideas to meet audience expectations built up over nearly a decade. Each scene feels manufactured to shock or deliver a massive uproar of laughter and this is highlighted by the amount of screen time given to Brick; it’s the easier laugh possible to get Steve Carell to speak utter nonsense but it wears so thin when it becomes the go-to gag. The inclusion of a love interest for Brick compounds the script’s laziness but that’s what has to a happen now the actor can command much larger salary.

Stop thinking for yourself verdict: Despite my criticisms of the film, I won’t deny I enjoyed it and it made me laugh on many occasions, but less than 24 hours after seeing the film I can barely recall what made me laugh because the film is so disposable, like a TV sketch show. There is so little to say other than; if you enjoyed the first film then you’ll like this as long as you have lowered expectations. But I don’t expect to have to lower my expectations, I expect Ferrell and company to deliver the same quality as before or not at all. It’s not half as good as the first film, and it’s not even on par with Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie. Now, there was a film which deserved a theatrical release.

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