REVIEW: “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”

ANCHOR POSTER

I’ve never shared in the enthusiasm or admiration for “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”. The 2004 comedy was a box office success but it gained most of its following in the subsequent years. To my surprise the film has a legion of devoted fans who adore these characters and can quote line after line. For me the first “Anchorman” film had its moments but ultimately it milked its gimmick dry and it grew old fast.

Surprisingly it took almost 10 years for a second installment to hit theaters. That’s unheard of in this modern movie era of churning out cash grab sequels by the gross. This time around we get more of the same familiar gimmick, many of the same gags, and the same wild sporadic storytelling. This is probably good news for fans of the first film, but for me it was another mediocre experience with even less laughs than the first movie. To make matters worse it’s almost 30 minutes longer making it a grinding endurance test for those not smitten with its humor.

ANHCOR 1

Seven years have passed since the events of the first film. Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are married and living in New York City. Both are successful co-anchors at a popular local news station, at least until Veronica is offered a prominent evening news position and Ron is fired. Ron’s ego takes over and he gives her an ultimatum – the job or him. The couple separate and Ron takes up petty jobs and heavy drinking.

But opportunity knocks when Ron is approached by Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker). He offers Ron a job at the first ever 24-hour news network. Ron searches out his old news team of Champ Kind (David Koechner), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), and Brick Tamland (Steve Carrell). The four get back to work and turn things upside down with their barrage of juvenile, racist, and sexist stupidity. Some of these moments do provide some good laughs. But honestly there are so many back-to-back jokes that some were bound to land. Eventually they all but disappear and the movie seems to repeat variations of the same gags over and over and over and over.

ANCHOR2

Ferrell is certainly comfortable playing Burgundy and he has never been ashamed to make himself look ridiculous in order to get a laugh. Often times it’s the sheer earnestness of his idiocy that is the most effective. But after a while I just wanted him to go away. Rudd and Koechner are the same – funny for a spell but then they sputter. My personal favorite character is Steve Carrell’s Brick. He’s a lovable imbecile whose humor mainly consists of spontaneous statements that make no sense whatsoever. Carrell is so good in the role but even he eventually becomes repetitive and tiresome.

“Anchorman 2” has the expected surprise cameos (most of them crammed within one small sequence) and a couple of intentionally absurd musical numbers. None of these can save this overly long and monotonous sequel. Eventually I had had enough of the toilet humor, body part gags, and rehashed jokes. Ferrell and frequent collaborator Adam McKay have had plenty of success putting things like this together and this film certainly registered with the “Anchorman” faithful. Personally I wouldn’t be sad if I never saw Ron Burgundy again.

VERDICT – 2 STARS

5 Phenomenally Funny Christmas Movie Characters

movie_theatre - Phenom 5

Christmas movies come in all shapes and varieties. From Christian-themed films to the Hallmark Channel mush, the holiday has invited literally hundreds of movies. As you look at the vast library of Christmas films you can’t help but find a ton of really funny characters. That’s who we are looking at today. Undoubtedly many would come to mind at just the mention of funny Christmas movie characters. So with that in mind, I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these a five funny Christmas movie characters are nothing short of phenomenal.

#5 – Myron Larabee (“Jingle All the Way”)

JINGLE

“Jingle All the Way” may not be considered a Christmas classic but it is one my family watches almost every year. Schwarzenegger plays the bad father who forgets to grab his son a Turbo-Man action figure for Christmas. He tears out on Christmas Eve to try to pick up what is the hottest toy of the holiday season. That’s when he runs into Myron played by Sinbad. I’ve never even a huge Sinbad fan but he’s really funny here. He plays on the deranged postal worker angle and becomes Arnie’s chief friend/rival in obtaining the elusive Turbo-Man. Myron has several laugh-out-loud lines and he’s a huge reason the movie is such fun (at least until the very end).

#4 – Harry and Marv (“Home Alone”)

HOME ALONE

Talk about stepping into a new role. Who would have ever thought Joe Pesci would be a highlight of a modern Christmas classic. Such is the case with “Home Alone”. In the film he teams up with Daniel Stern to form a suburban burglar team known as “The Wet Bandits”. Pesci and Stern are hilarious. The two numbskulls meet their match when they try and rob the home of 8-year old Kevin McCallister who has been accidentally left at home by his family. Harry and Marv fall prey to an assortment of Kevin’s booby traps which seem pulled right out of the classic Looney Tunes cartoons. They’re goofy and over-the-top, but they’re also a load of fun.

#3 – Papa Elf (“Elf”)

BOB NEWHART

Ok, this certainly isn’t a character in the same comedic vein as the others on this list, but he is an enormous reason I did the list to begin with. I’m talking about Papa Elf from the Christmas comedy “Elf”. Will Ferrell as Buddy would be the obvious selection here but I have to give some love to Bob Newhart. His casting was brilliant. There are several reasons he is so funny to me. First, we get Bob Newhart in tights and an elf outfit. Priceless! I can’t look at him without laughing. But then there is his serious, deadpan delivery which works to perfection. Newhart is just a funny guy and the way he handles this role cracks me up every time. He has to make my list.

#2 – Cousin Eddie (“Christmas Vacation”)

EDDIE

Surely you know Cousin Eddie would make this list, right? “Christmas Vacation” is a funny movie but the laughs go off the charts when Eddie and his family crash the Griswold family Christmas. Talk about stealing the show. Randy Quaid’s real-life misadventures proves that he has this type of character figured out. From Eddie’s wardrobes, to his antics, to his nutty lines, the movie is filled with one hysterical Eddie moment after another. As good as “Christmas Vacation” is, it’s safe to say it wouldn’t be the same without cousin Eddie. They just don’t get much funnier than him.

#1 – The Old Man (“A Christmas Story”)

CHRISTMAS STORY

As funny as all of the aforementioned characters are, there are none that make me laugh more than The Old Man (aka Ralphie’s father) in Bob Clark’s Christmas classic “A Christmas Story”. The late Darren McGavin Is nothing short of brilliant in his portrayal of this working-class father raising his family in Indiana. He has so many wonderful moments. His furnace and Oldsmobile battles, his bargaining with the Christmas tree man, his fights with the neighbors hound dogs, his major award. I could go on and on. He’s not only the funniest Christmas character but he’s one of my favorite characters period. And it’s all because of some very good writing and a fabulous performance from Darren McGavin. He’s my clear #1.

So what do you think of my list? I’d love to hear your favorite funny Christmas movie characters. Please take time to share your thoughts in the comments below.

“Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” – 2.5 STARS

ANCHORMAN posterThere are a lot of people who absolutely love “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”. I’ve heard so many people talk about its hilarity and give it rave reviews. Yet I have stayed away from it for several reasons, mainly Will Ferrell. I know most people love the guy and find him hysterical, but I can only handle his brand of humor in small doses. Another turnoff for me was seeing that “Anchorman” is a Judd Apatow production. Again, I know Apatow’s movies have a big audience but I’m not into his insistent crass and raunchy style. So the question becomes why would I watch this film? Simply put, I’ve been asked about this movie so many times that I felt I should give it an objective look.

Let me get this out of the way first. “Anchorman” isn’t as bad as I feared. In fact it has several clever gags and some laugh-out-loud funny moments. But it also has the same flat and unfunny “humor” that plagues most of Ferrell’s movies. And of course Apatow’s dull raunchy influence is found at different points throughout the film. It’s really a shame because I like good absurdist comedy and “Anchorman” has a lot of that. But there are also several moments where the movie thinks it’s a lot funnier than it actually is. This roller coaster ride between funny and unfunny scenes can be a little taxing.

Ferrell plays Ron Burgundy, a beloved and legendary anchorman for San Diego’s #1 ranked Channel 4 News. His popularity is citywide and he’s considered the big fish in the San Diego news reporting community. He rolls with his news team consisting of his loud and obnoxious sportscaster “Champ” Kind (David Koechner), his fashion-conscience field reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), and team weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) who is basically the village idiot and that’s saying something considering the company of clowns he keeps. The four are given a pretty long leash by their boss Ed Harken (Fred Willard) and they spend it partying with newsroom groupies.

Anchorman

The film is set in the 1975 and it spends a lot of time spoofing the male-dominated society of the time. Burgundy and company view women as a lesser species whose main purpose is to serve them and their “needs”. Of course their sexism is so insanely over the top that it’s often times quite funny. That sets up quite a clash when these moronic Neanderthals learn that, in the interest of diversity, the station has hired a beautiful news reporter named Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). Ron thinks it’s a ridiculous idea and that there’s no room for women in the news room. But he underestimates Veronica’s tenacity and ambition. He also underestimates her irresistible beauty and charm, and his attraction to her jeopardizes his role as a chauvinistic icon.

Ferrell co-wrote the script and I assume he tried to cater his role to his style of comedy. He has his moments where he’s very funny but there are also several times where his character’s gags land with a thud. Some of his jokes are so shallow and poorly written that they resemble material you would hear during a subpar comedy club’s amateur hour. But Ferrell does provide some good laughs especially when he’s swapping lines with his team. But overall I don’t think he’s the funniest character in the film. For me it was Steve Carell. He’s a complete space cadet and he had me laughing nearly every time he spoke. I also thought Applegate was very good as the straight person in the midst of a ton of lunacy. There’s also some really fun scenes with Willard. He’s a guy that can be very funny if given the right material.

Anchorman1

There are several cool touches that make the movie fun. I loved Bill Curtis’ pitch-perfect narration. The hyper-70’s wardrobes and hairstyles are a blast and the whole parody of the 70’s network news scene worked for me. Ferrell and gang play within this period sandbox and they’re clearly having a ton of fun. There are also a host of interesting cameos that pop up along the way. Some work while others are pretty pointless. I also have to tip my hat to Ferrell’s willingness to humiliate himself to get a laugh. It doesn’t always work but more often it does.

“Anchorman” actually attempts to provide some social commentary within its outlandish humor but I don’t think it pulls it off. For me it’s a film better appreciated as an insanely silly and preposterous comedy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately it’s a terribly uneven film and you have to wade through numerous flat and unfunny jokes to get to the good stuff. It seems that for every hilarious gag “Anchorman” gives you two boring and lazy ones. And of course there’s the Apatow signature toilet humor that’s just as cheap and annoying as in Judd’s other pictures. And it’s really a shame. “Anchorman” has a number of great scenes and I found myself laughing out loud numerous times. Unfortunately I found myself rolling my eyes just as much.

“Elf” – 4 STARS

ELF

As I have mentioned before, Christmas movies are their own special brand of films. Much of what makes them good is centered on how well they tie into this wonderful holiday season. You can’t separate them from the holiday and their success depends on that relationship to Christmas. Jon Favreau’s “Elf” is a perfect example. Soaked with Christmas lore, “Elf” captures the sentimental spirit of Christmas within its clever and often times hilarious story. “Elf” is inseparable from Christmas and your perception of the holiday will naturally impact your perception of this movie. That’s probably why I can forgive its few flaws and appreciate it as a true holiday treat.

Will Ferrell stars in the film and that’s usually something that throws up red flags for me. I’m not a fan of Ferrell fan and this movie follows a formula that he has overused in the past. As in his movies such as “Semi-Pro” and “Blades of Glory”, he plays someone in an absurdly out-of-place position. But unlike those movies it really works here. He plays Buddy the Elf. He’s a toy maker at Santa’s workshop in the North Pole. But there are several noticeable differences between Buddy and the other elves, none more obvious than the fact that he’s 6’5 and not a good toy maker. His father Papa Elf (hilariously played by Bob Newhart fully decked out in an elf costume and tights) decides it’s time to reveal to Buddy that he’s really a human being. Feeling uncertainty about where he belongs, Buddy sets out on a journey to find his real father who he learns lives in the magical world of New York City.

It’s here that the absurdity really kicks in. Buddy arrives in New York City in full elf garb and with the full elf mentality and is faced with the concrete jungle that we are all familiar with. He comes face-to-face with many new things including New York cabbies, coffee shops, commercialized Christmas, and the overall lack of Christmas spirit. It’s truly side-splitting fun watching Buddy’s wacky elf sensibilities clash with the big city realism. This script gives us plenty of these moments but it never milks it dry. It’s a fish-out-of-water story that never overplays its hand and that is key to making it all work. Now of course it gets a little sappy at the end and it’s fairly predictable as well. But I go back to the type of movie it is and to end the movie any other way would be to subvert everything it’s trying to do.

ELF 1

There are also some really good and committed supporting performances worth mentioning. I love James Caan as Buddy’s real father. He’s a shrewd children’s book publisher who spends more time with his work than with his wife and young son. Caan is perfect for the role. I also really liked the lovely Zooey Deschanel as a Gimbel’s department store worker who catches Buddy’s eye. Like Buddy’s father, she too has lost her Christmas spirit, something that Buddy is eager to help her rediscover. Even the often times annoying Ed Asner is a nice fit as Santa Claus and Faizon Love has several funny scenes as Gimbel’s toy department manager. It’s a wonderful supporting cast who have a lot of fun with what they’re doing.

“Elf” is pure absurd silliness and I thoroughly enjoy it each time I see it. Even if you aren’t a Will Ferrell fan, something I can easily relate to, you’ll find this to be a fun holiday treat. It’s fairly simple and it does go heavy in the sentimentality at the end. But it’s also a warm and clever film that serves as great family friendly entertainment. Now I fully realize that this may not be up everyone’s alley, but for many others this is a picture that has become a true “must watch” movie of the Christmas season. That’s certainly the case at our house.

MOVIE CONFESSIONS

Well Nostra over at My Filmviews is at it again. The master blogathoner has put together a little thing called “Movie Confessions”. It’s a chance for movie fans to come clean and answer a series of questions that expose some of their cinema shortcomings as well as their past cinema vices. So I thought I should get in on the action. Nostra has asked and here are my answers:

1. Which classic movie don’t you like/can’t enjoy and why?

There are several that could easily be mentioned here – “Easy Rider”, “Toy Story 3”, “Fight Club”. But the main movie that instantly came to mind was Stanly Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”. This is a movie that’s considered monumental for the science fiction genre but I thoroughly detest it, and I’m a huge sci-fi guy! I’ve tried on three different occasions to watch it all the way through and to see what all of the hype was about but I just can’t. Kubrick’s blabbering self-indulgence didn’t work for me at all and I don’t see myself trying to watch it again. I know most consider it a great film and it’s certainly garnered it’s share of accolades, but I promise you, it’ll never make my list of favorite movies.

2. Which ten classic movies haven’t you seen yet?

Sigh. To my shame, I’ve yet to catch “Lawrence”

Gulp! This was the question that I feared the most (Nostra, how could you ask such a question?). Anyway, here it goes:

  1. Singin’ in the Rain” (Sorry, I HATE musicals)
  2. Lawrence of Arabia” (I’ve seen bits but not enough to say I’ve seen it)
  3. My Fair Lady” (Yes, another musical. I’m sorry, ok!)
  4. All the President’s Men” (This just never appealed to me. I know, no excuse.)
  5. West Side Story” (Sense a trend here?)
  6. East of Eden” (Dean’s first major role. Again, I have no excuse.)
  7. The Lion King” (I’m always slow to animated features. It’s to my shame.)
  8. Dr. Zhivago” (Incredibly popular yet I’ve never seen it.)
  9. A Streetcar Named Desire” (Another that I haven’t seen enough of to say I have.)
  10. Any of the “Harry Potter” films (It’s true…yes, it’s true.)

3. Have you ever sneaked into another movie at the cinema?

No. At least not to sit in and watch a full movie. Now I have walked into another room just to see what was happening on the screen. But I’ve never sneaked into a theater or another movie without paying. My hands are clean!

4. Which actor/actress do you think is overrated?

There are several actresses and actors that come to mind. Julia Roberts is certainly one. While she hasn’t been as big lately, she’s still considered a wonderful actress and honestly, I can’t see it. She’s a one-trick pony and so often her roles are just variations of the same performance. Jennifer Aniston is even more overrated. Sure she has the looks but at some point you have to be able to act. I think the roles she’s taking points to her serious lack of acting chops. But ahead of them both would be Angelina Jolie. Talk about someone getting roles for her looks alone (and now even her looks are long gone). She has flirted with decent performances but I’ve yet to see her do anything to warrant the attention she gets.

As far as actors go, Will Ferrell is popular and he seems to be a “love him or hate him” kinda guy. I’ve yet to see anything that earns him the praise he often gets. Worse than Ferrell is Seth Rogan. I know that since I don’t like raunchy comedies he naturally isn’t going to appeal to me, but does he really ever do anything else. Not only is he one-dimensional but I find him extremely annoying. But above all is Ashton Kutcher. Sure, I know he’s mainly reserved for TV these days but he still is a big attention-getter and people really like him. WHY? How does this guy have an acting career. I’ll never understand his popularity.

5. From which big director have you never seen any movie (and why)?

This one was really tough because I have seen films from most of the great directors. But one classic director that I have yet to see a film by is the Italian great Federico Fellini. He’s a highly accomplished and stylish film director and a winner of five Academy Awards. The sad part is that I have no good reason for not seeing any of his films, especially “8 1/2”, a movie that has been in my Netflix queue for months and months. I should have already watched some films made by this influential director.

6. Which movie do you love, but is generally hated?

Yes, I love “The Time Machine”. What of it?

One movie that comes to mind is “The Time Machine”. Now I’m not talking George Pal’s movie from 1960. I’m speaking of the 2002 film directed by Simon Wells and starring Guy Pearce. This adaptation from the H.G. Wells classic was generally panned by critics (its Rotten Tomatoes standing is an abysmal 29%) and by moviegoers alike, but I truly love the film. I whole-heartedly concede that the special effects in the second half of the film aren’t the best. But I still think Pearce was wonderful, the storytelling is strong, and it features a great score. And I still get a warm and almost misty feeling during the wonderful final scene. Yes, I know I’m one of the few, but I loved this version of “The Time Machine”.

7. Have you ever been “one of those annoying people” at the cinema?

I can honestly say no. My mom and dad began taking me to the theater at a very young age. They pretty much taught me early to be quiet, watch the movie, and not ruin it for others. That even stuck with me through my doofus teen years. And still to this day, I can’t stand people talking or being disruptive during a movie. It drives me crazy.

8. Did you ever watch a movie, which you knew in advance would be bad, just because of a specific actor/actress was in it? Which one and why?

Oh yes! I am a HUGE Humphrey Bogart fan. I have the majority of his films in my collection and there were a lot of them. I have even some of his older low-budget pictures and movies where he played only a small part. Some were, to be honest, real stinkers but I not only watched them but added them to my Bogart collection. Yes, I’ve actually watched films such as “Isle of Fury” and “The Return of Doctor X” solely due to Bogart’s participation.

9. Did you ever not watch a specific movie because it had subtitles?

 I’m not going to say I never have, but as a big fan of foreign cinema, subtitles don’t bother me at all. In fact, I would rather there be subtitles that English voice-overs which do more to take away from the film than help it. So for me, subtitles are no problem at all.

10. Are there any movies in your collection that you have had for more than five years and never watched?

Hmmm, yes I have DVDs that I own and haven’t watched but they aren’t movies that I haven’t watched. These are DVDs of movies I have seen before but have never watched my copy. I’ve seen them but may have found them on DVD really cheap or they were given to me. But I don’t think I have a single movie that I haven’t at least seen.

11. Which are the worst movies in your collection and why do you still own them?

Yep, that’s “Van Helsing”!

I mentioned some of the earlier Bogart movies that are pretty terrible but I have them because they are Bogart films. But after briefly looking at my collection there were a handful of others that stood out. Movies like “The 13th Warrior” . I’ve watched it but never again. Then there is the Kevin Sorbo “Kull” movie. I’m not sure why I even bought it. Oh, and how about “Van Helsing” . Kate Beckinsale is in it so there’s the only reason for owning it….maybe.

12. Do you have any confessions about your movie watching setup at home?

I wouldn’t say there is anything I want to confess about it, but it works good for me. I have a 55-inch HD TV, a Playstation 3 for my Blu-Ray and DVD player, and Direct-TV’s HD package. That’s really it. It’s not the greatest setup but it certainly works for me.

13. Any other confessions you want to make?

Well, I’m definitely not the emotional type but good movies have a way of getting to me. If a film packs an emotional punch that’s well done, I’m certainly vulnerable to watery eyes. It may not be the most macho thing to announce, but it’s the truth.

And there it is. My movie confessions. If you’re interested in more information about Nostra’s blogathon, head over to his blog site My Filmviews . There you can find out how to participate and read the confessions of other movie-oholics like me.