Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

Anchorman 2 (2013)

Cult status. It’s a bit of a ‘buzz term’. Typically, it means a film that came out at the cinema, didn’t do too well / attract too much buzz, but went on to become a hit in the home market thanks to DVDs and TV showings. These types of films then become quotable, and quotes permeate into daily discourse. These start off being quite cool – “oh yeah! I saw that movie too! Great line!”, but typically descend into overuse in no time at all. Several of these films have emerged and spring to mind for The Phage. Oddly, quite a few of them seem to feature Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, or a combination of the two. Funnily enough, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is the sequel to what I would regard as the most over-quoted and over-referenced film in recent memory… So can this long-gestating sequel add more quotes to the library or are we… Well…

Anchorman 2 (2013)

Let’s get one thing clear from the get go: I’m not a fan of the original Anchorman, nor am I the greatest fan of Will Ferrell‘s schtick. It all comes off as too staid, too low brow and down-right too unfunny. It just grates. I saw the original Anchorman, found it mildly amusing in places, but never felt the urge to return to it over and over again, like so many others. Plus, what has Will Ferrell produced in subsequent years that has been of note at all? You’ll struggle. He’s had cameos here and there, but none of it has been remotely funny. It just consists of him shouting combinations of words. That’s not humour. Or maybe it is, and I’m just too old for it?

Regardless, Anchorman 2 “picks up” where the first film left off: Ron Bergundy (Will Ferrell) and his new wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are San Diego’s top news anchors, but it all falls apart when Ron is fired. He’s subsequently asked to join GNN – the first 24 hour news network over in New York City; thus leading him to reunite the gang (Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Steve Carrell) to make TV history. Add in a few random plot twists (read: random, not clever) and you’ve essentially got the premise of the film right there.

Anchorman 2 (2013)

Now, it’s not the basic nature of the plot that bothers me. Dumb & Dumber, which is another “cult” film that’s highly quoted (that I truly love) had a plot revolve around delivering a briefcase. It wasn’t big, nor was it clever, but it was funny. This is something that Anchorman 2 fails to be on all levels. The jokes either wear out their welcome very fast (see the image earlier), miss their mark entirely or are just copy and pastes from the original. Really, I shouldn’t have expected any less from Will Ferrell, as he’s not a gifted comedian given recent evidence.

The humour quickly resorts to trying to “shock” the audience with race jokes, which miss their mark entirely, or focus (and then come to rely upon) Steve Carrell‘s Brick character. You remember the “I love lamp” jokes from the first Anchorman? That was funny, right? Well, imagine that same type of humour on repeat, but becoming more stupid and more infantile every time to the point that it just becomes awkward to watch. It eventually turns into “oh no… here comes another Brick joke”. Yes, we get it, he’s mentally challenged, or slow, or whatever angle you’re gunning for…

Anchorman 2 (2013)

It’s quite telling that the most memorable moments were the cameos. It had people gasping and nigh-on applauding to see some of them. Although I won’t ruin the fun for anyone here, it’s easily the best bit of the film: seeing who else is in here! It’s ruining nothing to say that the film of course has walk ons from some of Will Ferrell‘s acting buddies that he’s appeared in numerous films with. Plus, within the first two minutes of the film you have a walk-on from Drake (who won’t be the only hip-hop star to grace the screen). What’s more interesting is the calibre of some of the actors that appear in the closing 15 minutes. You’ve got some true A listers of comedy, film and musuic, and some true movie whores too; ones that’ll seemingly appear in anything nowadays. The fact that the “ooo, who’s next?” was the best bit of the film is rather telling… as it didn’t actually feature Will¬†Ferrell all that much.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is a legend that is hopefully now concluded. Surely this cannot be stretched into a trilogy?! But I guess if the money pours in at the box office, then we may inevitably see Anchorman 3: The Legend Concludes. Ultimately, if you enjoyed Anchorman and could laugh over and over again at those jokes, then this film will probably appease you. If, like me, you found the first film a bit “too” stupid, then this will do nothing to change your mind.

We’re just hoping that Dumb & Dumber To doesn’t fall into the same bin as Anchorman 2. Surely Jeff Daniels & Jim Carrey can pull out another classic as Harry and Lloyd? But that’s the risk… if you produce a “cult” classic then return to it several (or nigh-on 20 years later for Dumb & Dumber) you’re running a huge risk. I’ve yet to see it work for a comedy if I’m honest, as the temptation’s there to just repeat past jokes. Here’s hoping Harry and Lloyd had done wonders with that worm farm… and it’s not just that Petey’s head’s fallen off. Again.

Phage Factor:

2 Stars

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The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

If I look back on my childhood, there’s probably one film star that had the greatest impact on me. That actor would be Jim Carrey. 1994 was something of a revelation for the pre-teen Phage. We had Ace Ventura, Dumb & Dumber and The Mask all hit our cinemas. You’re doubting the impact these films had on me as an impressionable youth aren’t you? Well, suffice it to say that I actually took to wearing Hawaiian shirts unbuttoned, with a vest underneath. I went out in public like that! I even did the little neck twitches that Carrey would do in Ace Ventura too. I’m glad the feeling of “shame” hadn’t kicked in at such a tender age. Thankfully, I think very few photos exist of that period of my life. Now, almost 20 years later, Jim Carrey is still doing his thing on our screens. Sure, he’s had some duds, but he’s also starred in some modern day classics. How does The Incredible Burt Wonderstone fare though?

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is about magic. The large scale magic shows that cascade through Vegas like some flashy river. The eponymous character, Burt (Steve Carell) has been in the magic game since he was a little kid. Shunned by his classmates, he turns to magic courtesy of a magic kit his mother left him. This triggers a friendship with another school loner, Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) and together they go on to become “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton” in their adult years. But things aren’t peachy behind the scenes. Aside from their worn friendship, there are egotistical issues and the fact that their style of bombastic magic is no longer “in vogue”. People don’t want David Copperfield any more. They want the Criss Angels, David Blaines and Dynamos of the magic world. Street performers with a dangerous edge. Cue Jim Carrey as Steve Gray (who is Criss Angel in everything but name) with his show Brain Rapist (Angel‘s show is Mind Freak)… a guy who is definitely stealing their thunder.

Criss Angel and Steve Gray... Brain Rapists and Mind Freaks.

Criss Angel and Steve Gray… Brain Rapists and Mind Freaks.

I think The Incredible Burt Wonderstone makes a lot more sense and is vastly more enjoyable if you know a little about magic acts. Especially how magic has changed since the 1980’s and 1990’s. Big illusions are out, “mind freaking” up close is in. If you bear this in mind, and know some of Criss Angel‘s work, you’ll see what this film is trying to do… or I think you might. The film is quite confused in its tone. It doesn’t know whether to send up the world of magic as a comedy, or play out like a traditional buddy film and actually respect the art of magic. It would have worked far better as one or the other, and not the mish-mash that actually is revealed from behind the red curtain.

The problems with the film stem mainly from the scripting here. We all know that Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi and Jim Carrey are extremely bankable actors. The first and last in that list have proven chemistry from films such as Bruce Almighty, and Steve Buscemi is just a seminal actor. But the movie falls flat quite often. The laughs are few and far between, which is pretty unacceptable for a comedy. Most of them come from the ridiculousness of Steve Gray’s bizarre stunts, and even those types of laughs don’t really appeal all too well to an international (read: British) audience. I was genuinely excited by the prospect of the film when I saw Carell and Carrey were reuniting again, which may ¬†have fed this sense of being underwhelmed that I had throughout the film.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

However, nothing can be taken away from Jim Carrey‘s performance here. He’s back on the “full tilt madness” setting that characterised his earlier movies: rubber faces, crazy eyes and being generally… Jim Carrey like. Alrighty then! Although I felt that his character’s “appeal” grew increasingly thin over the length of the film, his presence on-screen made every one of his scenes the most memorable parts. As for Carell and Buscemi? Well… they’re just there. Their story is plainly obvious from the start and you can predict the plot points from the outset. Having said that, I thought that the ending of the movie was genuinely heart warming and quite charming. It actually made me question how harshly I’d been viewing the movie since the titles appeared. I wondered whether I should award The Incredible Burt Wonderstone with a higher score than I’d planned… but you can’t pull off that type of illusion. Not on The Phage. My verdict is resolute and absolute.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone promised much more than it could provide. Sure, Jim Carrey is on sterling form, which makes his appearance in Kick-Ass 2 all the more anticipated, but the script and subsequent parts played by Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi were underwhelming and quite tiresome. But the biggest problem? The laughs just weren’t there. This is a film that will make magic fans titter, but if you have no idea who Criss Angel is, then this film will fall flat. And also, can I point out that Jim Carrey‘s character is NOT meant to be an aping of David Blaine. His name is Steve Gray… and he presents a show called Brain Rapist. He’s topless a lot, has long hair and is covered in tattoos. Criss Angel presents a show called Mind Freak, is topless a lot, has long hair and is covered in tattoos. Shazam.

And although I don’t feel the urge to dress up as Jim Carrey / Steve Gray / Criss Angel, this film reminds me just why I idolised Jim Carrey so much years ago. He’s still a funny guy and has an indisputably unique comedic talent. Sure, it’s waned at times, but I predict that 2013-14 will be his resurgence. We’ve got Kick-Ass 2 and Dumb & Dumber to to look forward to (too many to’s). And I can’t wait!

Phage Factor:

2.5 Stars