29 December 2013

Review: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

(Dir: Adam McKay, 2013)

Let's get this out of the way from the start - Anchorman is the most overrated comedy of the century so far. That's not to say I dislike it or don't find it funny, I'd describe it as fairly funny and reasonably entertaining. It's certainly not the exemplar of 21st century comedy that many hold it up to be and I find the praise lavishly laid at it's feet to be pretty inexplicable. This is one of the most subjective genres after all. When it comes to comedy Will Ferrell doesn't seem to have too many strings to his bow, like Ben Stiller, Jack Black or Adam Sandler. They each seem to have one character they play, just with a different name, set of clothes and scenario in each film. It's variations on a rigid theme and when those characters are only so-so from the get go, it's easy to tire of them very quickly. Ferrell's Ron Burgundy is very much cut of this cloth.

This style of comedic characterisation, playing the likes of Ron Burgundy as the dumb, brash, narcissistic buffoon, has been done so much better in the past. There's no subtlety to a character like this, everything is forced or shouted and exists only on the surface. If we want depth we should look elsewhere. If we want variety, well we have his news crew to provide that and they almost always outshine. Steve Carrell's Brick takes dumbness to a point of interesting, willful obfuscation and Paul Rudd's Brian Fantana may seem like a single-minded lothario, but Rudd is always able to exude charm in the characters he plays. David Kirchner's Champ Kind rarely works however, just seeming too awkward. Burgundy is easily over-shadowed in this company as he's just not that funny. In fact he's pretty tiresome, regardless of how many of his phrases have entered the modern lexicon.

The setting of the Anchorman films is a strength as the seventies newsroom offers up the potential for much interest, yet it never feels fully exploited. In the first film this leads to a slightly awkward misogynistic angle to the story, which fits into the context of the era and setting, but are we supposed to find some of this stuff funny or just pathetic? The sequel has moved on from this and instead throws up casual racism which sits really uneasily and the only explanation for this seems to be that Burgundy is just an idiot. This should've been excised as it has no place. But then so should've a lot of elements of the sequel as it more than outstays it's welcome. A meandering story is not helped by nonsense like the incredibly unfunny lighthouse sequence. In a film like this less would definitely have been more.

If the first Anchorman is an OK film, the sequel is decidedly average. There are far fewer actual funny moments and many more misses, whilst it just plods on for too long. Inevitably the side men shine again, as do the cameos, but Ron Burgundy remains a tired and uncreative character that never needed to be brought out of retirement. Admittedly I find Will Ferrell to be a mostly uninspired, generic comedian who is at his best in films like Stranger Than Fiction where there's a sense of thoughtful creativity. If you loved the first Anchorman chances are you'll like this one a lot too, probably just not as much though.

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