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

The Campaign (2012)

Sometimes films land at a time that’s just so apt, so perfect that it’s a true stroke of luck. Take Contagion for example – the film about the deadly strain of influenza bat-derived virus. You may be thinking that it was commissioned because of the H1N1 outbreak, but you’d be wrong. It was just a happy co-incidence, as the film was actually sparked by SARS and the emerging H5N1 bird flu virus. You see? Right time – right place! Other films are less fortuitous and focus on hitting cinemas to coincide with something. And The Campaign is clearly one of those films.

Now, The Campaign hit the US some months ago, so to my Atlantic cousins, I apologise – as this is old news for you. You could argue that launching the film way back in the summer was a mistake considering your elections fall in November. I’d have thought launching now would have been more appropriate, but I guess Hollywood knows best. That or your politics system knows best… Both have so many similarities…

Ok, the film tells the tale that you pretty much expect it to: two men are campaigning for a Congressional seat on behalf of North Carolina. On one hand you have Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) – a career politician who’s a womaniser, liar and every other cliché you could throw at a politician. But he’s in charge. Then you have his opposition: Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) who is quite a simple guy and embodies every other cliché you could throw at Zach Galifianakis‘ on-screen roles to date. All of this electoral hoopla is controlled by “the man” and the “big corporations” embodied here by Dan Akyroyd and John Lithgow – the Motch brothers. Has this got you excited yet? What if I say there are a hell of a lot of big names that make an appearance in here? Excited? Well… manage that excitement.

The film is very middle-of-the-road. When it hit US cinemas some hailed it a comic masterpiece, whilst others snorted with derision. I do neither, but I’d certainly say it’s more worthy of a snort than hailing it as a masterpiece. Let’s get one thing straight though: Will Ferrell has made far worse films in recent years. I know that’s not saying much, but it’s true. I’ve never really understood his appeal if I’m honest. I think Anchorman is vastly overrated and he, like Galifianakis (who I’m coming to), decides to play a very similar role time after time. This is no different.

So whilst I’ve brought him up, let’s move to the second lead: Zach Galifianakis. You see, I actually do like this guy and enjoy The Hangover and Due Date – arguably his two biggest films to date. I also think his stand-up is bizarre but entertaining and his more “serious” role in It’s Kind Of A Funny Story was solidly acted and hinted at a deeper, more complex actor than you’d be led to believe. This isn’t one of those performances. Whilst I do like his schtick, Galifianakis veers very heavily towards his character from Due Date. It’s less acting and more a parody of an effeminate man from the south. It’s a bit like a sketch show if I’m honest. This might fly on Saturday Night Live, but not so much on the big screen; especially when I know the guy is capable of more than this.

I would go into depth on the plot, but it’s a Will Ferrell movie… you’re not going to walk out of this movie debating the intricacies of the story, as you may have done with Looper. In fact, I’d be surprised if you walked out and uttered much more than “that was alright”. That’s essentially all that can be drawn from the film. However, one thing that’s worth mentioning is the ending. Just what is that? It’s almost as if they’d finished filming and editing and thought “you know what, why don’t we bolt on 30 seconds more footage?”. And this 30 seconds of footage is so disconnected and horribly bolted on that it’s just… weird. A very poor choice from whoever commissioned that ending. Not that it improves or destroys what had gone before, it’s just very peculiar.

And after all that, let’s discuss what matters with a comedy: the humour. Some films can be forgiven for a dull plot by having some great laughs. This has some laughs, for sure, but with the exception of some “punchy” jokes, none have truly stuck with me since I saw the credits roll. Most of the laughs were of the “ooo, can they do that?” variety, as opposed to a well constructed joke. And by saying that, don’t think I’m a very conservative guy. I’m British – we’re used to pushing the boundaries so far over the precipice of acceptability that we’re impaled on the rocks below. I don’t know where this films on that particular cliff, but it’s definitely straddling the boundary between “good” and “ok” film…

When all’s said and done, if you’re a Will Ferrell fan, you’ll probably already have seen this film because you’re a fan of what he does. It’s amazing how much pull that guy still has, despite the fact he’s not put out a hit in quite some time. I’m sure Anchorman 2 will do big business because of this fact alone. Me? Sure, I’ll see it, but I won’t be first in line.

So on whether The Campaign should get your vote or not, I’d say that the verdict’s currently hung. But, since Film Phage isn’t like the US political system (ie., we can’t be bought… or maybe we could if we were approached), then I’d have to stick to my guns and state that this film truly is middle of the road. There will be no recounts, there will be no re-elections and there will be no sale of the votes amassed by Florida.

Phage Factor: