The movie business has always had trouble making quality sequels of successful films in any genre. Nearly 40 years later “Godfather II” is still jumps out as one of the rare films that was as good, if not better, than the original film. The law of diminishing marginal returns has been especially true with respect to comedy sequels. Very few talk fondly about either “Ghostbusters 2” or Wayne’s World 2,” and you would be very hard-pressed to find anyone who had anything positive to say about this year’s “Hangover III.”
Will Ferrell is arguably the most bankable comedy film star today and while he has made his mark playing laughably immature and egomaniacal guys, he has proven that he can be a credible lead in a drama. I urge everyone to check out “Everything Must Go,” in which he plays a corporate manager who has just been fired because of alcoholism.
Ferrell has often admitted that the question that he has been asked more than any other in the past nine years is “When will there be a sequel to ‘Anchorman’?” It was in that surprise 2004 hit movie that Ferrell created his most indelible character, blowhard self-absorbed 1970s San Diego TV news anchor, Ron Burgundy. “Stay classy, San Diego!” was how signed off every broadcast. That expression has become a source of civic pride for San Diegans.
“Anchorman 2” has a lot of good ideas in its script but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
The idea of moving Burgundy, and his old local broadcast team of loudmouth redneck sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), nutcase weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), and ladies’ man investigative reporter Brian Fontana (Paul Rudd nicely channeling a younger Geraldo Rivera) to 1980 New York to be part of the first 24-hour news network, Global New Network (GNN, get it?) would be in itself enough fodder for a movie.
There is very little of the time period here with the exception of such great songs as Christopher Cross’s “Ride Like The Wind,” the Steve Miller Band’s “Jet Airliner,” and Heatwave’s “Groove Line” in the soundtrack. There is also very little of New York City here as most of the filming was done in Georgia where the costs are lower and the tax rebates are higher than here in the Empire State. While I understand Paramount Pictures’ desire to keep the film’s budget under control, today’s audiences are too sophisticated. Atlanta is a wonderful city but Paramount shouldn’t insult our intelligence trying to pass if off as New York City.
The film starts out with Burgundy being let go by another network while his wife and co-anchor, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) gets a promotion to be the evening news broadcast. That predictable plot device leads to a drawn-out and unfunny temper tantrum by Burgundy who walks out on his wife and child.
He gets a second chance when he is hired by Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker), a producer at GNN, to anchor the graveyard 2-5 AM shift. The new network is a chance to introduce some new foils for Burgundy such as the handsome and preening Jack Lime (James Marsden) who seems himself as the alpha male anchor at GNN; as well as Aussie GNN founder Kench Allenby (Josh Lawson) who is an amalgam of Richard Branson, Rupert Murdoch, and Ted Turner.
Instead of utilizing those characters fully, they are merely there to serve as quick cameos as most of the time is spent Burgundy snapping at his old San Diego buddies and recovering from blindness caused by a head injury incurred while ice skating. I don’t know whose idea of humor that is.
A work romance with African-American GNN news director Linda Jackson (Meagan Good) leads to a “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” spoof. Only the biggest fans of cringe comedy will enjoy it after the first 30 seconds.
The biggest flaw of “Anchorman 2” is that director Adam Mckay and lead actor Will Ferrell (they double as the screenwriters) spent so much time worrying about the cameos of big names as Liam Neeson, Harrison Ford, Kanye West, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Vince Vaughn, and Will Smith, that they forgot to create a coherent ending.
To be fair, there are a good number of laughs in “Anchorman 2” but they get diluted by the two-hour running time of the film. Wait until it hits cable or Netflix.