May 28, 2020
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)
[Note from the editor: This review is by prospective staff writer Ryan H. Enjoy!]
2004’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is a classic. It’s a witty, funny, unbridled comedy. Almost ten years later, the sequel Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues was one of the most hyped films of 2013, or maybe ever. Sadly, it fell flat on its face. While sequels are generally never as good as the original, Anchorman 2 is almost an exercise in parodying the reasons why a second film never lives up to the first.
We’ve seen it happen many times before: a funny and popular comedian goes from being the biggest name in Hollywood comedy to a virtual nobody overnight. For many years, Jim Carrey was making more money per film than any other actor in Hollywood. And now what is he doing? Kick-Ass 2? Burt Wonderstone? Who the hell actually saw those movies?
Could Anchorman 2 similarly be the end of Will Ferrell’s over-hyped career? In a nutshell: yes. Or, at least, it should be. There are many reasons that Anchorman 2 should by all rights be Will Ferrell’s Cable Guy. But first, here’s the entire movie in seven paragraphs.
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It’s 1980 and Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) is now married to his co-anchor Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). The movie begins with them walking down a Manhattan street, stupid joke, stupid joke, pointless Drake cameo, stupid joke, followed by a stupid scene and then another.
We then learn famous news anchor Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford, what are you doing?) is set to retire, and Veronica gets promoted while Ron gets fired. She leaves him and he goes back to San Diego, and ends up working at Sea World announcing dolphin shows.
Finding himself at the bottom of a bottle and at the lowest point in his career, Ron makes a wacky suicide attempt. When that fails, he’s introduced to the idea of 24-hour cable news, and hired to anchor the graveyard shift on “GNN”. So he gets together his supporting cast from the previous movie (Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Steve Carell) to be his news team and they travel to GNN headquarters. After surviving an RV crash, they meet their boss (Meagan Good) who happens to be black. Cue an excruciating ten minutes of “black” jokes. Not jokes about black people; I mean Ron says the word “black” over and over again as if it’s funny.
A million bad jokes pass, and Ron goes to his wife to try to reconcile with her. Unfortunately, she has a boyfriend now (Greg Kinnear with a ponytail), and after more bad jokes, things aren’t going so well for Ron. He decides to fill his first newscast with nothing but moronic, sensationalist news. This earns him a kick in the balls from his boss and the whole team is fired. However, the ratings skyrocket, the whole team is rehired, Ron has sex with his boss, and his wife wants him back.
The movie stumbles on. Ron wins an Emmy and celebrates by ice skating while playing the flute. A rival anchorman trips him, which leads to an accident that leaves him blind. He loses his job again, goes back to his wife, saves a baby shark, and raises it to adulthood.
Ron gets his sight back as well as his job, then quits his job. Then the movie decides to recreate the news team gang fight scene from the first movie, only this time the cameos have been amped up to include the likes of Kanye West, Will Smith, Liam Neeson, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Marion Cotillard, and oh, look, it’s Jim Carrey himself!
Ron survives the battle, then gets attacked by his own shark and is saved by his dog. The crappy end.
Will Ferrell screaming like a woman or a baby or a baboon was funny when he was playing different characters on Saturday Night Live. It was funny when he was playing a racecar driver who was having hallucinations that he was on fire. It was kind of funny when he did it in Semi-Pro and a little less funny when he did it in the first Anchorman.
As much as we liked Jim Carrey’s rubbery face in the first Ace Ventura, his contortions began to grate on the nerves by the time of Bruce Almighty, and at this point, Jim Carrey’s facial tics are old hat. It’s the same with Ferrell’s dry humor and physical comedy. Both have been getting old for a while. There are only so many times you can get any shock value out of screaming randomly and running around in your tighty-whities. Now it’s just gross. (Though to be fair, in this movie, Kristen Wiig gets to be the one wearing the tighty-whities.)
Even though he still giggles like a girl and—to quote Ferrell himself—‘‘blabbers like a ventriloquist”, his shtick just doesn’t work anymore. But rather than compensate for Ferrell basically playing the same character in every movie, they stick to all the same jokes here.
Every Will Ferrell movie follows the same plot: Ferrell is at the top of his game, Ferrell’s nemesis knocks him down a peg or ten, Ferrell rises to the top again as the result of some epiphany kicking him between the legs, Ferrell smiles and says something stupid.
The problem is the jokes themselves are now being recycled, and delivered in a half-assed way. They’re the same kind of jokes you roll your eyes at when your dad tells them over and over. In other words, Ferrell is getting old (literally old), and the same script delivered in a different package for the zillionth time is getting old as well.
At least once or twice a movie Ferrell does the ‘‘straight guy with gay tendencies’’ joke. And guess what? He does it again here! He gets all hot and bothered by a rival reporter (James Marsden), and another scene has Ron asking Harrison Ford, ‘‘Would it be wrong if I told you that you smell terrific?’’ Would it be wrong if I told you what this movie smells like?
In a sad attempt to recall his glory days, the film includes at least a dozen vintage Will Ferrell calling-card lines. You know the ones. Such as, in every movie he has to claim he’s part of some tribe or some village, and whatever tribe or people or place he comes from has a funny-sounding name. This time, Ferrell claims to be “full-blown Mexican from the state of Oaxaca”. That joke again? Ferrell has delivered variations on that gag in a dozen movies in the last decade. He may have delivered the same line in Casa de Mi Padre.
That joke doesn’t work anymore, nor does his deadpan face. We don’t laugh at his dumb stare off into space anymore. We don’t laugh at his characters trying to take themselves seriously anymore. It’s almost as if Ferrell has called it quits, doesn’t care, and at any second he’s going to look right into the camera and go, ‘‘Suckers! How many times are you going to keep paying for the same movie and the same stupid jokes when the only difference is the names and the costumes?’’
Really, it’s starting to feel like the jokes are on us, and not for us.
Maybe audiences will keep coming back for Will Ferrell’s movies, maybe not. However, it’s pretty clear that the big sponsors that supported Ferrell’s latest dud will be keeping their money in their pockets next time around.
During the relentless marketing blitz for this movie last year, Dodge decided they would help hype Anchorman 2 with a series of commercials with Ron Burgundy. He spent one of them throwing eggs at one of their SUVs. He spent another mispronouncing the names of the vehicles. For the first month, it became clear that customers were responding strongly to the commercials, as sales of the Dodge Durango shot up nearly 60% in anticipation of the movie’s release.
However, once the movie came out and “underperformed” at the box office, Dodge almost immediately pulled the commercials off the air.
I’m not going to claim the movie didn’t make money, but after all the overbearing hype we endured at the end of 2013, with Ferrell and his cronies appearing on every newscast and talk show currently airing (and perhaps inventing time travel so they could appear on a few talk shows cancelled years ago), you would have expected it to be the movie event of a lifetime. Instead, it opened in second place to a Hobbit movie that literally no one was excited to see, and it didn’t even top the first Anchorman at the box office. Perhaps this was because by the time the actual movie came out, everyone had already seen five movies’ worth of Ferrell’s antics in their Facebook feeds and decided that was plenty.
While all of his movies have himself coming out on top, Will Ferrell himself unfortunately doesn’t live in a Will Ferrell movie. So the question isn’t whether or not Anchorman 2 is Will Ferrell’s Cable Guy (it is), it’s whether or not Ferrell himself can ever rise to the his past levels of comedic brilliance. If the careers of other comedians are any indication, the answer is no. Even the funniest actor has a shelf life, and it seems as if Will Ferrell has reached his expiration date.
[—This review contains additional material by Dr. Winston O’Boogie.]