Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

January 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Movies

The period between 2001 and 2004 produced some of my favorite comedies of the modern era. There was a real stale period sometime after “American Pie” that made me think we had perhaps seen the end of the Great American Comedy Movie. Everything was either trying to copy the aforementioned “Pie” or “There’s Something About Mary”. Even the Farrelly Brothers seemed to be running out of steam coming into the 21st century. But then came a few comedies that gave me hope: “Zoolander” and “Old School”. These two films captured genuine humor that had been missing in the past few years, where the comedy seemed forced. Ben Stiller reached back into his sketch comedy roots to produce a full length feature film based on his popular character from MTV Video Awards sketches. The result was one of the funniest films I saw in years. I still love watching “Zoolander”. In 2003, there was “Old School”. Putting together a very strong cast of comic actors coupled with an entertaining story line made this a great addition to the Campus Comedy subgenre. Then, in 2004, we were treated to “Team America”, “The 40 Year Old Virgin”, and…

“Anchorman”. At the time, it wasn’t a huge hit and it received mixed reviews from critics. But my friends and I all loved it, loved quoting it, and it still remains a favorite of mine. I think it’s classic in the way “Caddyshack” and “Stripes” are of their respective times. This spawned what I call the Judd Apatow Era of comedies. Mixing raunchy humor with oddball characters that are strangely appealing and endearing, films like “Knocked Up” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” created a new avenue for adult comedies in the new millennium.

Through the years, the act has grown stale to be sure. It gets tiresome to see the same actors regurgitated in familiar plots, bloated run times, and release after release of the Unrated Versions of DVD’s.

Then a few years ago, there was talk of a sequel to “Anchorman”. I thought, “Oh no. It IS ‘Caddyshack’ all over again.” I didn’t like the idea at all, especially because “Anchorman” aged well on its own and could be considered a classic in its own right, without having an unnecessary sequel attached to it.

Last year, it was pretty official and we started seeing teaser trailers. By this time, I had put behind my reservations and tried to approach the sequel with an open mind. They were reuniting the entire cast, which back in 2004 was relatively unknown, and it would simply continue the story of Ron Burgundy into the 80’s, which I thought could be a great period to utilize since the 80’s are so popular now.

Well, after seeing the film, I can’t say that I am angry they made a sequel. But, I can’t quite recommend the film, either. “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” begins with Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) almost being eaten by a shark. Promising.

Then, we’re taken back to when Burgundy is co-hosting a weekend wrap up show with his wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), who now have a child, Walter (delightfully overplayed by Judah Nelson). They are approached by the network’s leading news anchor, Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford), who fires Ron but promotes Veronica to the nightly news anchor while he retires.

Ron doesn’t approve and it tears up their marriage, and also leaves Ron jobless (he’s also fired from Sea World). He’s then given an opportunity by someone working for an upcoming 24 hour news channel (Dylan Baker) who wants Ron to do the news again. At first Ron balks at the idea, but then after being allowed to include the rest of his news team, he accepts the opportunity and rounds up the gang.

This is where the film hits a fork in the road for me, and this is where it starts to head in the wrong direction. Instead of a story about Ron finding his friends again and creating a rivalry with his wife, there are simply endless scenes of banter that leave the film more quotable than memorable. There is a banal subplot between Ron and the leading producer, Linda (Meagan Good) that doesn’t lead to any real drama between them and Veronica. There’s an amusing but underused storyline of a rivalry between Ron and the new network’s lead anchor, Jack Lime (James Marsden, a real sport in this film). But where the film grinds to an unforgivable halt is the extremely sorry excuse for a comic love story between Brick Tamland (Steve Carrell) and a bumbling receptionist played by Kristen Wiig. I like both of these actors immensely and think they are talented, funny, and very smart. But their scenes are just nails on the chalkboard. They are obviously not scripted, and instead rely on that old standby in the Apatow Era–improv. But the improvised lines sound more forced than funny. Maybe if these were outtakes of the film, they’d be appealing. But as part of the narrative, these scenes just clang. And we don’t care about these characters, we were never meant to.

Burgundy’s character seems a bit out of tune at times, as well. He can be cocky, and stupid, like he was in the first film. But then it’s almost like Will Ferrell’s doing an impression of Ron Burgundy instead of being Ron Burgundy. There are times where his typically sharp wit is dulled and comes off as unrehearsed and sloppy. It also seems like at times he’s searching so hard for that really funny line to rival “a whale’s vagina” and instead just blurts something inane and dumb. Ferrell seems to have given all of his best lines to Dodge for the Durango commercials, which is a shame for this sequel.

There are laughs in the film, and I think the best line comes from Champ Kind (reprised nicely by David Koechner) when he’s discovered by Ron to be running his own fried chicken joint that actually sells bat wings and meat instead of chicken. When he’s asked about why, he says it’s cheaper. And besides, he says, bats are known as “chicken of the cave”.

The 24 news network, GNN, could have also served as a real juicy satire on oversaturated news. It’s even run by a greedy, over the top Australian (played by Josh Lawson). This had potential, and includes some jokes about how desperate the news can be for storylines; but it isn’t explored enough. Instead, we’re given a purposely off the wall and goofy subplot involving Ron becoming blind and raising a shark named Doby. I found that funny, especially since Ron goes way overboard on pointing out how blind he is–to the point that he tries brushing his teeth with a lobster. But it goes on too long, and the film stretches itself into so many half-hearted, hair-brained directions that it never really finds a focus or purpose. Oh, and there is another Newsteam Melee. While you may be impressed by the cameos…it really doesn’t do much else but make you say, “Oh look! It’s (insert name)”. What made the original fight so funny was not just the fight, but the joke was more about the fact that they can be actual “gangs”. That joke didn’t need to be repeated for the sequel.

It’s overindulgent and overlong, and while it has its moments of the original’s inspired brilliance, it just seems to be content as a send up of one-liners rather than a full blooded comedy film. It’s certainly not as abominable as “Caddyshack 2”, but it does share some of its slapdash demeanor.

Ron Burgundy could still be used in another sequel, as well as his appealing co-workers and supporting cast. I think next time they should work more on the script and less time trying to show off how funny they are. We already know they are. Now put a story behind it, and make a funny movie.

My rating: :?

This Is The End

June 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Movies

I’m going to start this review by saying that if you don’t enjoy the presence of actors Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill or James Franco, you may want to steer clear of this movie. The film could be considered a vanity project since they’re playing fictional versions of themselves–but that’s the whole fun of it.

And fun is the best word to describe this movie if you do like these actors; and in this case, obviously I do. I like that they laugh at themselves, and make fun of each other. I like that the other main character of the film, Jay Baruchel (probably a bit lesser known than the other main actors), has no issue saying he doesn’t like these guys. This is a movie that doesn’t take itself that seriously. For a movie revolving around the apocalypse of mankind, that’s a pretty big gamble. But it works if you don’t believe in that kind of thing happening.

So the story is fairly simple: Jay is coming to LA to visit his best buddy, Seth, for a weekend. They haven’t seen each other in a while and deep down, they’re both afraid that they’re losing touch with each other. Jay doesn’t like staying in LA; Seth is comfortable in the lifestyle. He’s taken to partying with his “new” friends including Franco, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, and Craig Robinson among others. When Jay and Seth first see each other, it’s a great reunion. Seth shows him around his new apartment, they smoke weed and watch 3D TV and just play around. But then, Seth drops that he wants to go to this mega house party hosted by James Franco. Jay admits he’s not really a fan of James and doesn’t think he likes him either. He doesn’t know most of the other people and the ones he does know, such as Jonah Hill, he also admits he doesn’t like nor does he think they like him. Seth thinks it’s even more important to go to the party in order to bury the hatchet and start over and Jay will see that everything will work out and they’ll all be friends together.

When they first get to the house, the party is well in progress. Franco calls Jay by another name indicating he doesn’t know him, and Jonah Hill is overly friendly to Jay, which makes Jay think he’s just overcompensating and being phony. Seth promises “Jonah is just that nice”. Other guests include Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling, Jason Segel, and just about everyone who’s been in a comedy film in the past 10 years…and, Rihanna. Things are going smoothly at the party until Jay runs out of cigarettes and decides to take a walk to a store to buy some more. He gets Seth to go with him and they leave the party, while Jay once again reinforces that he isn’t really into the party.

At the store, something happens. It’s like an earthquake, but then blue beams shoot out of the sky grabbing hold of people and “sucking” them up into the sky. Both Jay and Seth are blown away by this, and when they get back to the party, they can’t believe that no one has noticed anything strange has happened.

But then, an earthquake-like rumble happens again at the party and the guests go outside. Massive sinkholes swallow some of the guests, and Michael Cera is impaled by a street light. After the commotion, there are only a few people left from the party:

James, Jonah, Craig, Jay, and Seth. They decide to bunker in the house and ration everything in the house while waiting to be rescued. Then, there’s a complication. Unbeknownst to James, he had an unexpected guest who passed out in the bathtub: Danny McBride. McBride is unaware of the goingson of any earthquakes and decides to make a large breakfast using a lot of the supplies, and even goes as far as to use the bottled water they have to wash his feet and face.

It’s pretty evident early on that Franco’s not a fan of McBride, and he becomes a source of tension between the crew. Not only that, but Emma Watson appears from outside as another sole survivor from the party. After a misunderstanding about what she thinks these guys may do to her, she runs away. The men are left with each other and very few supplies, and have to go on a water mission to the basement at some point in order to replenish.

Jay is the only one who is convinced it’s the apocalypse. Everyone else thinks it’s just earthquakes. But then, they see demons. Jonah Hill has a rather…interesting encounter with one that leaves him possessed; and by the end, they all know that their souls are doomed or saved based on how good they are to each other and others.

I would say anyone who considers themselves to be a Christian would be appalled by this film; but the movie’s not really for that audience. It’s so full of raunchy and off-color humor that no one devout would even begin to consider going to see it. But if you’re willing to accept that this is a joke, and a cute little tale about friendship and what it means to sacrifice yourself for others, then none of that stuff will bother you.

The demons actually look pretty good. I can’t imagine a lot of thought went into the actual apocalyptic part of the film, and toward the end, some of the movie drags a bit. This is really more of a vehicle for the actors. But there are some very big laughs and the movie moves along otherwise at a very good pace.

There’s nothing earth shattering about this movie that would elevate it above it being just your average comedy; but since you are watching the earth literally shatter, you can at least look at it this way: if you’re going to watch a movie about the end of the world, it may as well be entertaining. Because if the apocalypse does happen, I have a feeling it won’t feel as funny in real life. Just a hunch.

My rating: :-)

I Love You, Man

April 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured Content, Movies

A girl I was dating once told me she was concerned with a friendship I had with another guy because she was suspicious of how close we were. She didn’t understand that he and I were “like soul-mates”. Not that you should ever tell a lady friend of any kind something like this, mind you–you’re really asking for trouble; but, you know, I was young and stupid. She took it the wrong way. She thought I might have homosexual leanings. But it was nothing like that at all. Put it up on the chalkboard: We don’t understand women, and women don’t understand men. But it’s not really the whole “what they’re thinking” bit that’s all that complicated. It’s just that we don’t want to see eye to eye a lot of times. It’s uncomfortable, and that’s out of fear. She might have had every right to think what she did since I didn’t explain it to her. I might have had every right to think she was being a child for simplifying it so much.

The essence of this situation is why “I Love You, Man” may be my favorite romantic (or I guess I should say, “bromantic”) comedy of the 21st century. It takes that very awkward balance of having a passionate, caring, and deep relationship with a woman along with having a platonic, caring, and deep relationship with a man. It begins with Peter Klaven (played deliciously unstable and weird by Paul Rudd) who has little to no guy friends, because he’s always been a “girlfriend guy”, as he’s called by his girlfriend, whom he’s just proposed to (she said yes). Zooey, played wonderfully by Rashida Jones (“The Office”, “Freaks & Geeks”), is concerned that Peter has no Best Man for their wedding. Peter goes to his gay brother, who knows even more about straight men than gay men (wouldncha know?) who tells him to set up a series of “man-dates” in order to find his guy mate so he can have a Best Man.

Predictably, the film progresses into a sort of parallel universe of romantic vernacular when Peter meets Sydney Fife at one of his open houses (he’s a real estate agent trying to sell Lou Ferrigno’s house), and the two hit it off almost immediately. Sydney, played by Jason Segel in possibly my favorite character for him since Nick on “Freaks & Geeks”, is a laid back guy who is a man’s man, and is the perfect “fit” for Peter. The two of them start seeing so much of each other, in fact, that Zooey gets a bit worried that she’s “losing him”. Not to homosexuality, mind you, the film is smart enough not to devolve itself into a “Hey Let’s Do Gay Comedy!” onslaught; rather, she just thinks she’s losing the man she’s going to marry because he’s developed a friendship with someone else. But Sydney does a few things that upset the chemistry, and the two have a falling out, and Peter is left again with no broheim for his wedding.

But bromantic comedies are just like romantic comedies so I think you know how it all ends. Everybody dies!

No, okay. Anyway, the film really does deliver and it clicks on all cylinders, having fun with itself while also telling a very honest tale about love and friendship and all of that sugary sweet stuff that these movies are made of. But it has enough of that raunchy twist to make it workable and not something guys would want to steer clear of. In fact, I think a lot of guys could relate to this movie just as much as a girl could. Maybe this is the one movie that brings us all together?

…right?

All right, let’s move on. The film features other great performances, too, such as the always hilarious and sexy Jaime Pressly as the best friend of Zooey. Her husband, played by Jon Favreau, is a treat as an angry, scoffing malcontent who likes playing poker and mostly hates everyone else, especially Peter (for a reason I won’t give away but it’s somewhat understandable). Thomas Lennon gives an amusing performance as one of the failed man-dates, as does his former “The State” mate, Joe Lo Truglio. And of course, J. K. Simmons can never do wrong, and he delivers an understated funny performance as Peter’s dad.

As you can tell I enjoyed this movie thoroughly, and although it does have some scenes that you will have to accept as simply characters being just that (Slapping the bass, for instance), for me it never lost itself as some recent comedies have (ahem, “Pineapple Express”) and never forgets the heart of the matter. It’s a fun movie, and it’s a much needed get-away movie when you just need two hours to escape.

My rating: :grin: