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Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

(Warning: Spoilers. Not many but a couple). 

Will Ferrell is the funniest actor of all time. There, I said it. It's out there, it's how I feel. I was brought up on a diet of Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey though, so I think I know what I'm talking about. That said, I came to the Ferrell party a little late. I didn't even realise he played Mugatu in Zoolander! And Elf just looked stupid to me. Until I saw it.

I say all that to get it out of the way, my version of full disclosure. Still, I am a very jaded and cynical individual these days (just ask my family or close friends, the ones who have stuck around that is), so Anchorman 2 was never going to be a gimme for Will and his crew in my mind. The first installment was a mystery to me for many years. I went and saw it at the movies with a female companion, however we were confronted with an empty cinema. Unfortunately for the movie, it lost out to our carnal urges, so I didn't actually watch it till many years later. When I did I was stunned and disappointed I'd denied myself such pleasure for so long. It's a masterpiece.

9 long years we have been made to wait for a follow up, a wait made even longer by endless promotion leading up to the release date. As if it needed it. A mere sniff of a sequel sent the twittersphere in to meltdown, and expectations rose faster than one of my appendages that day in the cinema. You had to think they were setting themselves up to fail. The original was so perfectly crafted; a myriad of sexist and outrageous humour that was held wonderfully together by the big booming personalities of Carrell, Rudd, Ferrell, Applegate and that bloke who plays Champ (who's name is irrelevant, like his post-anchorman career). How could they hope to improve on the original?

They didn't bother with any of that. Rather than try another Hangover moment, they just continued the story as if it were an extension of the first movie. Yes, it trots down replica plot lines. Burgundy becomes an alcoholic again, and is rescued again by Baxter. And replacing the sexism of the previous installment is outlandish racism, perpetuated by Burgundy's child-like naivety. They don't feel stale or boring though, and they are never dwelled on too long. In fact the first half an hour is a complete whirlwind of plot activity as we're led through his rise, demise, rock bottom moment and then his inevitable ressurection.

Honestly though, criticising the plot of a Ferrell movie is like dissecting the artistic merits of EDM artists at dance festivals. In the end you're just there to get drunk and dance, or in this case laugh until your stomach hurts. There'll be plenty of that! Brick is even more obscenely stupid. He eulogises his own death, recounts events that haven't happened yet as if they are fond memories, enjoys the creepiest romance of all time and attacks a woman for no reason whatsoever. Champ is worse than ever, and by that I mean he is brilliant! His over the top version of the southern non voter delivers almost as many one liners as Burgundy. Even his 'Chicken of the cave' variations induce guffawing every time no matter how often he trots it out. Paul Rudd was the only one who fell a little. Whilst all the other characters were turned up to eleven, Fantana felt similar and slightly less important than its original trajectory. His share of one-liners was diminished, which is a disappointment for such a strong actor. His career as a cat (read: pussy) photographer was the only moment that felt too transparent, too easy.

The foundation of a movie like this is such a hard concoction to get right as a writer and actor. Its beauty lies in its sheer insanity, yet push that boundary too far and you risk being cheap and taudry or over the top, as Family Guy and The Simpsons became in their twilight years. Maybe Anchorman 3 would feel over done, but the second installment gets the mix perfectly right. There is a plot, and it's actually quite meaty. It's first victory is plausibility, and even the egg-heads might find a little solace in the satirical angle it travels in relation to the current generations viewpoint of news. With twitter and instant gratification becoming a dominant theme in our digestion of 'news', it's becoming clearer and clearer we aren't questioning the source anymore, we are instead placing our trust in these faceless juggernauts who calculate what the masses want and deliver it to them. Of course on the flip side, the net has allowed us an unfiltered view of the world, if you know where to find it. Anchorman 2 parodies those incessant current affairs programs that, like a wart you keep chopping off with a knife, keeps coming back again and again, hardier and more grotesque than before. If it makes one person take a more cynical viewpoint of the news then it's achieved an aim it probably never set out to.

Don't worry, it doesn't get too deep, and there are other aspects to the plot that draw your attention. The story with Jack Lime allows the script to fall back on a trusted running joke to temper the crazier moments, such as the blatant racism displayed by Burgundy. Interestingly enough they tackle the always difficult role of hero. Burgundy falls, but in such a way that his legendary status is never diminished. I won't ruin the details of his demise but it is quite insane and you may wet yourself. With characters like Burgundy the temptation is to set them up for failure, to play on their arrogance and turn the audience against them. At no stage do you feel like taking a side with Ron. You never root for him, because he has just enough optimism and confidence to show he doesn't need your support. But you can never hate him, because he appears to have the social and emotional intelligence of a child, which is endearing. It's a tough line to tread but he has done it perfectly.

People don't like this movie, I get that. There are some individuals out there who don't like chocolate or ice cream too. The best way to deal with them is to nod, make a mental note that that person is completely bonkers and move on. This is a brilliantly funny film, and it holds its own surprisingly well against the original which will go down as a comedy classic. The cultural significance of this series and Ferrell as an individual is mirrored in the myriad of guests appearing. Kanye West may be the single worst actor ever to grace the lens, but his star power is undeniable. 9/10, absolute must watch. 

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