Director: Adam McKay
Screenwriter: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay
Cast: Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Kristen Wiig
Screened at: AMC Lincoln Square, NYC, 12/16/13
Opens: December 18, 2103
There’s a reasonable chance that the majority of the audience for “Anchorman 2” is not familiar with the newscasts of Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow. In one appearance, Cronkite broke down in tears during his historic newscast announcing the death of J.F.K. Not only were these two anchors reporting on the highest level, but their producers, trusting the audience, gave them stories of international importance to involve their following. Now, however, their places have been taken by pretty faces, often a man-woman team who appear lovey-dovey with each other, and they are given principally items of local interest as though what happens in the immediate area is more important than what’s breaking in North Korea or Syria or Chile. Goodness knows the current practice favored by TV news producers is ripe for satire. They may be giving the audience what it wants, but perhaps the news teams are themselves creating these desires to some extent.
When director Adam McKay takes on the role of satirist, using his own screenplay co-written with Will Ferrell, he throws situations at us that are so off-the-wall absurdist that we forget that there’s really nothing either satiric of comic going on. The guys and gals of the news teams seem often to be riffing without any script at all, simply shouting their lines or acting in mock fights with one another to take the place of anything meaningful. Physical comedy is fine: but “Anchorman 2” does not give us physical comedy to laugh with, though, granted, there will be some in the youthful audience for this parody who don’t “get it,” who don’t see that there’s a reason to send up the ways that news is presented on TV (if they can break away from their smart-phones long enough to watch a segment at all).
There’s nary a person on board in this movie who is not cartoonish and who thereby can involve an audience for two hours with their high-jinx. Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), having been fired from his slot as anchor in San Diego (which he pronounces, two or three times as “San Dee AH GO” ho ho ho) is fired by the producer (Harrison Ford) but his co-anchor, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Appelgate), who happens to be his wife, is kept on. It’s the early 1980’s: a producer (Dylan Baker) of a new 24-hour news service known as GNN, the Global News Network, offers him a job on the graveyard shift, allowing him to round up his old news team of Champ Kind (David Koechner), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), and weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell). We are introduced to Brick Tamland when he delivers a eulogy at his own funeral, shouting and moaning, crying and shaking, until he finds out that he’s still alive (don’t ask).
When the team decides to give the public what it wants to hear and not what it really needs,such as focusing on car chases, cute animals, and blatant national chauvinsim, their ratings soar, getting the attention of their boss Linda Jackson (Meagan Good) and the network’s Australian billionaire owner (Josh Lawson). When Burgundy is introduced to Jackson, his only retort is “black.” He repeats this as though possessed by a demon: “black.” If you find that amusing, go for it.
Like the blazing finale of a Macy’s fireworks show on the fourth of July, McKay (or should I say producer Judd Apatow) pulls out the stops, bringing in cameo performances from some of the best-known names in cinema, all sporting for a free-for-all fight principally against the team of the previous news star, handsome and hubristic Jack Lime (James Marsden)—a fight that includes the participation of a minotaur.
For the women in the audience, there’s more than a touch of formulaic sentimentality. Burgundy’s seven-year-old son, giving a piano concert before an SRO crowd, wants only to see his dad in the audience. Will Burgundy forgo a part of his career to bond with his estranged wife and lonely boy? There is, however, a single scene of great comic merit when Linda Jackson invites her latest beau to dinner with her extended family. Burgundy jive-talks the table, inappropriately of course, but that gem of a reversal of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” cannot be maintained either before or after its clever scene.
Rated R. 119 minutes © 2013 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – C-
Acting – C
Technical – B-
Overall – C