Anchorman 2

Anchorman 2 (2013) – Directed by Adam McKay – Starring Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, James Marsden, Kristen Wiig, Fred Willard, Chris Parnell, Dylan Baker, Greg Kinnear as Gary, Josh Lawson, Harrison Ford, Vince Vaughn, Will Smith, Jim Carrey, Marion Cotillard, Sacha Baron Cohen, Drake, Kirsten Dunst, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Liam Neeson, John C. Reilly, and Kanye West.

I occasionally laughed and mostly hated ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES.

Nearly every sequence in the film had something funny to offer, but nearly every sequence played like a bad skit that overstayed its welcome. I love the first ANCHORMAN movie, generally love Will Ferrell, and hate that I dislike a sequel I was very much looking forward to, so maybe the problem is that between then and now it’s me that’s grown old and tiresome and not this style of humor or these characters.

What I liked about this movie were the critiques of the news industry. When Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), in a fit of desperation, decides he’s going to lead off his 2 AM newscast by simply watching a car chase play out as he speculates wildly over the top of the footage, I thought the film worked really well as a satire of the industry.

What I didn’t like were most of the character bits – the scene between Ron, his estranged wife Veronica (Christina Applegate), and her sensitive new lover, Gary (Greg Kinnear), was painful. The film gets the old gang back together as Ron tracks down Brick (Steve Carell), Brian Fontana (Paul Rudd), and Champ (Brian Koechner). It’s the kind of sequence where it’s supposed to be funny that Champ runs a chicken business in which they actually sell fried bats, Brian photographs cats, and Brick thinks he’s dead, but each scene is good for a single joke before it becomes uncomfortable to watch.

And not – hey, isn’t this an uncomfortable situation that we can laugh at, but hey, should I hit the fast forward button in the hopes the next scene is better?

Of course, there are more versions of ANCHORMAN 2 available to watch than there are versions of the Bible. From what I understand, there’s a theatrical version, an Unrated version, and a 763 new jokes, R-rated version. I think those last two are different versions; that’s how they’re marketed, at least. Maybe they’re the same. I don’t know. Again, maybe I’m just old, but give me the theatrical version and then the special edition and then go make another movie. Different jokes and takes are why Jesus invented Bonus Features, right? When they make NATIONAL TREASURE: THE EFRON CODEX 100 years from now with the reanimated corpse of Nic Cage, the plot will revolve the secrets hidden away in alternate versions of movies released on home video. I imagine some thin, nerdy guy will moan about how he’s counted, and recounted, and counted, and recounted the R-rated version 763 times and can count only 43 new jokes.

There really isn’t any reason for Brick, Champ, and Brian to be around in this film other than the fact that they were in the first movie. Brick gets a nice subplot which sees him romancing Chani (Kristen Wiig), but it’s not very funny. Champ and Brian feel like window dressing most of the time. The more their existence is tied directly to Ron, the less important they are in the film. Champ can only hug Ron so many times.

Throughout the film, I had this uncomfortable feeling like I was watching people do ANCHORMAN cosplay. When the big ending rolls around and there’s a huge fight between Ron’s group and news teams from across the growing cable landscape (Entertainment Tonight, ESPN, the BBC, MTV, etc.), all of them populated with people you recognize (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Will Smith, Harrison Ford, Sacha Baron Cohen, Kanye West, Jim Carrey, Vince Vaughn), I had the thought that I wasn’t watching a comedy as much as I was watching a wake. Hollywood is hard on comedians. Guys like Jim Carrey and Will Farrell can be instantly transformed into the biggest comedic stars in town and then flame out just as fast. Ferrell has had a long and successful career, but the “Will Ferrell Era” of him as a leading man starts in 2003 with Elf and Old School and then ends in … 2007 (Blades of Glory)? 2008 (Semi-Pro and Step Brothers)? 2009 (Land of the Lost)? 2010 (The Other Guys)? 2012 (Casa de mi Padre and The Campaign)?

When did it stop being the thing to do to go to a Will Ferrell movie? Blades of Glory made about $55 million more than ANCHORMAN at the worldwide box office. The Other Guys made $80 million more. So did ANCHORMAN 2.

But are they better movies?

People still go to see Will Ferrell movies, but doesn’t it feel like he belongs to yesterday more than today?

Is that just a problem of perception?

Is ANCHORMAN 2’s success because Ferrell is still a box office star or because of nostalgia?

I honestly don’t know. I honestly think my negative reaction might have more to do with me than anything in the film. What I know is that ANCHORMAN 2 made me laugh a bit and also put me to sleep (I literally fell asleep). Will Ferrell is a really bright guy and maybe I’d rather see him pushing the limits of his brain instead of doing what amounts to a greatest hits tour where the old jokes fall a bit flat and the new jokes don’t move me. Obviously, lots of people went to see ANCHORMAN 2 and the critical response was pretty good, so I fully recognize I’m in the minority on this one. I hate coming off as the Bitter Old Crank, and I am fully open to the idea that my displeasure with ANCHORMAN 2 is less about this movie being something less than the first one and me being a different guy. Maybe it’s not, “In my day, movies were better,” but “Ten years ago, I would have loved this.”

That final battle scene, though … I look at Ferrell and Will Smith and Vince Vaughn and Jim Carrey and can’t help but think how ANCHORMAN 2 should’ve started with that fight instead of ending with it. Maybe if ANCHORMAN 2 had focused on the changing face of television news at the start of the cable era and had populated the film with guys who used to be comedically vital, and thus hit us with guys on the downside commenting on a movement’s upside, ANCHORMAN 2 could have been really something special.

Or maybe I’d be here championing a film that tanked at the box office.