DAY 4 – Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

by 12daysofmovies

After taking a brief hiatus yesterday to view a non-sequel movie, let’s continue with the part twos, shall we? The theaters are just fucking full of ’em.

Anchorman came out in 2004. I was in high school, in Arlington, Virginia. I went to the mall cinemas to see the movie, alone. Before the film began, some kids (my age) behind me started throwing popcorn at me, and I became infuriated, because, you know, what the hell man? I lumbered up to where they sat, and asked, as bad-assedly as I could muster, “Do we have a fuckin’ problem?” They said no, and I went back to my seat. Then they threw more popcorn at me. I, feeling put in my place (I am not a badass in any way, this has been clear ever since), ignored it, and tried to enjoy the movie.

In the 9 years following that day, seemingly everyone you’d meet would quote the movie, “I’m kind of a big deal.” Or, “I’m going to punch you in the ovaries, that’s what I’m going to do.” Everyone. Some people without even knowing it. This movie was a cultural, perhaps even a linguistic, touchstone. How could a sequel, coming nine years later, possibly compare, possibly follow in those footsteps?

Well, it turns out it could follow it up OK. 

Anchorman 2 wastes no time launching into director Adam McKay’s patented style of modular humor, where certain reaction lines (or lines in general) are written to be completely interchangeable with another, and the cast and director try out lines rapid fire, one after the other during filming, and then in editing they try to pick the funniest one. When Anchorman came out, and even far into the years of Talladega Nights and Step Brothers, this style kind of flew under the radar, and the movies it produced felt fresh and cutting edge, but now, long after the secret of the method is out, it’s hard not to really notice it when one of these modular parts come up, and it’s pretty distracting. Anchorman 2 is, consequently, more successful at producing laughs when the events are scripted and situational, for me anyway. How many times could an extremely random reaction line (“Sweet Odin’s Raven!”) possibly be funny?

Anchorman 2 is largely devoid of any real overarching conflict, except maybe the change in the news industry that Ron Burgundy unwittingly sets in motion: the dumbification of 24 hour news networks. Ron Burgundy seems to be the major villain here, he who first decided that a random car chase in the Mid-West constituted the main material of  a prime time news broadcast, or that news should be not about what people “need to hear, but what they want to hear.” This sequence of dumbing down the news, with the help of the still-hilarious news team (except Champ, Champ isn’t very funny in this movie, sadly), takes a huge part of the movie. But, things get really awesome when the plot takes a serious left-turn in the third act, and it’s inventive, weird, and so good. Just what the whole movie should have been in the first place.

Anchorman 2 successfully avoids falling into the trap of merely re-hashing the structure of the first film, the plague that made Hangover 2 such an awful fucking experience for everyone involved. There is however, a necessary reboot of the news-team brawl, except this time it takes on a global scale, and ratchets up the weirdness a notch further than expected. Again, lots of guest stars make appearances, but sadly Jim Carrey’s Canadian news anchor falls flat with a comedic conceit directly stolen from the internet.

RANDOM NOTES

1) Things from the trailers and characters seen in Conan clips and stuff are just completely absent from the movie. Apparently, McKay and company had to edit a lot out to get that PG-13 rating. A scene where Ron reacts to the possibility of a gay man existing is just nowhere to be found.

2) More ADR weirdness in this one. In the trailer, Ron has trouble hailing a cab in NYC, and says “It sure is hard for a white man to get a cab in this city,” but the movie changes it (replete with obvious lip-flap) to “It sure is hard for a proud mexican man to get a taxi,” which is a call back to an earlier joke in the film.

3) It’s hard to write funny things about a comedy.

Advertisements