Thursday, December 19, 2013

Review: "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues"

I admit I never got what the big deal was about "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy." The 2004 comedy was a modest commercial hit that somehow went on to gain near-iconic status as a comedic masterpiece. Word of a long-delayed sequel set off a flurry of rapturous attention, followed up by a marketing campaign so omnipresent that folks living in the Himalayas must be thinking Will Ferrell & Co. are becoming a tad overexposed.

The first film had a few uproarious laughs interrupted by long dull spaces in between, and the sequel is much the same.

I will further admit that I laughed three or four times during "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" as hard as anything I've seen this year. But it's a hard slog in between those wonderful moments, particularly in the dull-as-toast second half.

Are a handful of truly great comedic moments enough to make a movie worth a dollar bill with Andy Jackson's face on it, plus two hours of your time? I vote no, and I got to see it for free.

If you're a novice to the world of Burgundy: he's the world's worst newscaster, a dim-bulb egomaniac played by Ferrell with trademark obliviousness. Ron's the sort of guy who can be offending everyone in the room and not even be aware of it.

His look is pure late 1970s: neon-hued suits with ties as wide as a Buick, cheesy mustache, sideburns and a hairdo that's over-primped into ridiculousness.

As the story opens, Ron gets dumped by his San Diego network and his wife (Christina Applegate) in one fell swoop, and ends up as an announcer at the local Sea World. His drunken binges doom even that job, until a new gig lands in his lap with a crazy idea: news 24/7.

Of course, their Global News Network is a barely-concealed spoof on the early days of CNN and the fracturing of the news audience into a thousand little pieces.

Burgundy assembles his old crew and heads to New York, only to find he's relegated to the 2-5 a.m. slot, while slimy top dog Jack Lime (James Marsden) gets the primetime slot and becomes Burgundy's chief tormentor.

They respond by giving people what they want -- cute animals, car chases, jingoistic patriotism and other pap. The audience eats it up, vaulting Burgundy into the stratosphere.

The M.O. of Ferrell and Adam McKay, his director and co-screenwriter, is pretty familiar by now. The characters stand there and spout ridiculously off-the-wall nonsense in the hopes that some of it will be click with the audience.

And some of it does. Steve Carell puts the most points on the board as Brick, the innocent naïf weathercaster. As played by Carell, Brick has the social skills of an infant who was suddenly zapped into adult form. Because it's married to that sweet, dumb persona, his ramblings are funnier because it comes from a place of utter simplicity.

"A black man follows me everywhere when it's sunny," Brick says.

"I think that's your shadow," Ron offers helpfully.

At one point, the gang attends Brick's funeral, and he shows up to give the eulogy, and has to be convinced that he's still alive. He even gets a love interested in Kristen Wiig, who plays his female intellectual and emotional equivalent.

Other weirdo plot twists include having Ron date his black producer (Meagan Good), just so we can have a scene where he sits down to dinner with her family and spout one racially insensitive malaprop after another.

Things culminate in a massive battle between news teams that's more notable for the incredible number of celebrity cameos -- Will Smith, Kanye West, Jim Carrey and Tina Fey among them -- than for any actual humor generated. It's a fitting end for a movie that seems to have fallen in love with its own hype.

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