Ferrell and friends deliver funny disappointment
Loves: Comedy mega-casts, superstar cameos, Paul Rudd
Likes: Christina Applegate, Will Ferrell
Dislikes: Overexposure, disappointment, hype
Hates: Lazy writing, excessive improv
Then something happened, and we ended up with Anchorman 2, possibly the most hyped and commercial-driven comedy in movie history. The ads came fast and furious months before the movie ever came close to arriving in theaters, oversaturating the audience to the point where many people, including fans of the original, were saying they were already over a movie they hadn't seen. It was an abject lesson in the downside of hype. Now, that the ads have had time to die down (and sadly start back up in time for this release) we can re-examine the film on its own merits. And sadly, it's still a let-down.
Advancing the world of Anchorman 10 years puts Ron and his lady love Veronica (Christina Applegate) into yet another over-the-top decade, this time the ‘80s, where Ron finds himself down and out as his news career crashes and burns, and Veronica's soars, leaving her single, with their child Walter (who, as played by Judah Nelson, manages to be sweetly and obnoxiously innocent all at once.) However the burgeoning world of 24-hours-a-day news, spearheaded by Australian millionaire Kench Allenby's GNN, gives Ron a chance to rise like a phoenix by reconvening his news team of manly reporter Brian Fantana (Rudd), burly sports guy Champ Kind (Dave Koechner) and dim-witted weatherman Brick Tamland (Carrell.) Together, they usher in the era of trash news, with all the hallmarks of today's awful non-stop news tornado (the satire being the film's sharpest comedic element, spread over the length of the movie.)
Part of the problem here is the way the film tries to coast on the positive vibes engendered by the three male leads (sorry, Koechner.) While Rudd still seems to be trying (and as a result is responsible for some of the film's funniest moments), Ferrell and Carrell are doing the same act we saw the first time around. You can only do that so long before you wear out your welcome and the surprise is gone. It's no shock then that those who play opposite them, including the aforementioned Wiig, the wonderful Applegate, rival newscaster James Marsden and Meagan Good (who plays Ron's new boss) get more laughs, as they are showing something different right up against the same old. Incredibly, the movie manages to kill a joke through overexposure in the span of a single segment, as a runner about Ron going blind and it affecting his understanding of the world around him is run into the ground in just a few scenes.
The bigger sin might be wasting some truly talented comedic actors, with Fred Willard, Chris Parnell, June Diane Raphael and a gaggle of greats relegated to the gang fight, all left with little to do. Yes it's fun to see familiar faces do silly things like play the ghost of Stonewall Jackson or a French-Canadian news presenter, but once you get over the feeling of "Oh, they're in this too?," you quickly segue into a feeling of "That's all they did?" A movie with this many funny people should deliver a lot more laughs. It's sort of amazing that a film that's overlong and over-stuffed manages to feel like it offers so little. Perhaps it would have been better to write a lot of solid jokes rather than a lot of potential scenarios for playing a big game of improv comedy.
Of course, if they didn't we wouldn't have the extended version, which subs in some more adult, alternate takes, mostly stuff that couldn't get past the censors in order to keep the box-office-friendly PG-13 rating it had in theaters. The difference in length from the theatrical release is a whopping four minutes, however one of the extras may convince you to watch this cut.
No complaints can be heard when listening to this film's 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, which takes full advantage of the movie's funky soundtrack and action scenes to deliver a strong, enveloping sound field that's complemented by crisp clear dialogue (a key to most good modern comedies. While the news gang fight may be excessive, it results in a showcase for the audio, taking the film to another level. The surrounds handle the music and atmospheric effects for the most part, with the occasional bit of dynamic mixing, while the low-end acquits itself well with some deep bass hits along the way. If anything disappoints, it's that such a fine presentation doesn't accompany a better film.
Watching the slightly extended unrated cut lets you listen to an audio commentary by McKay, Ferrell, Rudd, Carrell, Koechner and producer Judd Apatow. Starting off with some thoughts about commentaries (and the usual jokes about how no one listens to them), they go all over the place in their stories, point out the work of crew members and reveal some names who were in line to be a part of the movie, but didn't make it in. They also enjoy making fun of Dylan Baker and point out some missed jokes (like Wiig's character's name.) The most interesting part though has to be the information about Rudd's personal recording solution, which gives you a peek behind the Hollywood curtain. Surprisingly, for a track featuring so many people, there are a few dead spots in the second half (apparently thanks to some Oreo bingeing.)
There are a few nice behind-the-scenes pieces to complement the commentary insight, starting with "The Newsroom" (18:50), which focuses on the newsroom set and news team characters, while touching on the influence of Terminator 2 on the film and showing some of Marsden's 2003 auditions for Rudd and Carrell's parts. There are four more behind-the-scenes featurettes (46:14), focusing on some of the more production-heavy sequences, like the original musical concept, a big RV stunt, the animal characters of Baxter and Doby and the trademark news fight. Told with a mix of interviews and on-set footage, these clips give good info on how the movie was made, especially when you get to see the celebrities on-set for the news fight. There's even more background material in the three previsualizations (8:47), which show how the RV stunt would play out and how the meeting of Baxter and Doby would go, while there's also test footage of the big news fight with stunt men, showing some ideas that weren't used in the film. For a goofy comedy, the work done on this film was rather extensive.
You say you want to find out more about how the movie was made? Well, you're in luck. There are nine table reads (21:52) showing early testing of the script with the actors, while three audition clips are included. You get to see how Meagan Good got her part, reading opposite Ferrell, but you also see how Amy Poehler (reading for Applegate's part) and Dylan Baker (reading for Fred Willard's role) didn't get parts in the original Anchorman. If only there was more of these really behind-the-scenes moments to enjoy.
Now, with three version of the film included, you probably would assume that you've seen all there is of Anchorman 2, but you'd be horribly, horribly wrong. There are 132 minutes and 19 seconds of alternate and deleted footage still to come here:
Wrapping things up in this set are six trailers (10:08) including the teaser trailers that started all the hype, as well as a clip of Jack Black singing a song (3:39) about his personal connection to Anchorman 2 from a 826LA benefit.
The Bottom Line