Much of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is more of the same from Ron Burgundy and the gang. As the lead character, Will Ferrell does the news, does some ladies and has a few meltdowns. Brick says idiotic things, Champ says inappropriate things and Brian Fantana has a special cabinet alluding to his assumed sexual prowess. Oh, and Veronica Corningstone is back and mad at Ron again. There is even another cameo-filled brawl. But there are a few things added in that we didn’t see in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, like Ferrell wrestling with a shark that calls to mind scenes with a cougar and a bear in Talladega Nights and Semi-Pro, respectively.
The sequel reminded me of some other movies besides those in the filmography of its star. Sometimes this was the intention of the filmmakers via a direct reference. Other times it was just the usual wandering of my brain making relevant associations. Occasionally the reminders came externally from another writer’s comparison. Regardless of where this week’s list of recommendations came from, I’ve wound up with a nice variety of titles about broadcast journalism and keeping sharks as pets plus selections highlighting some of the cast’s other work worth checking out. Queue them up for your holiday week, why don’t you.
As always, the following may involve SPOILERS as some of the titles below are linked to specific plot points of the movie.
Many critics are calling the Anchorman sequel a great satire of modern broadcast journalism, even though the movie is set 30 years ago and primarily mocks the kinds of sensational news we saw arise through cable news networks in the 1990s. But spotlighting actual things that have occurred and continue to be the norm, with very little exaggeration, that’s easy comedy and not biting satire (at least it’s not as ridiculously hindsight-oriented as HBO’s The Newsroom). Maybe it is simple parody at points. On the other hand, this 26-year-old dramedy from James L. Brooks is also not quite satire but is sharp in its addresses of where television news is headed and what kinds of journalistic ethics are being squandered. And the cast here is far more enjoyable, too. To be a little more specific in comparing the movies, critic Calum Marsh tweeted this observation: “Anchorman 2 is like Broadcast News as written and directed by William Hurt’s character in Broadcast News.” I could also recommend Morning Glory because of the Harrison Ford connection, but I haven’t seen it.
Go back even farther in time, to before Anchorman 2 is set, and you’ve already got one of the most prescient movies ever made. This one, unlike Broadcast News, could have been familiar to the people in this movie. But in its time, Network was seen as more satirical and exaggerated, though today its portrayal of television news doesn’t seem that crazy. Or, maybe it does, but not unfamiliarly so. One favorite moment in particular came to mind during this new comedy, and that’s a speech given by a corporate suit played by Ned Beatty to newsman Howard Beale (Peter Finch) in response to the latter doing a report critical of the station’s owner’s business dealings. It’s far more blunt and eye-opening, even after 37 years, than the subplot in Anchorman 2 regarding a story killed because it would hurt the station’s parent company.
As far as documentaries about cable news networks go, it might be more fitting to recommend Robert Greenwald’s Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, since much of the Anchorman 2 target seems to be Fox News with its Australian mogul character (Josh Lawson). But I’d rather push a great film on the subject than an obvious one. Control Room is directed by Jehane Noujaim (The Square) and is about Al Jazeera with focus on their coverage of the U.S. invasion of Iraq compared to American media’s coverage. It might be the best movie ever about the line between news and propaganda and one of the most important docs of last decade. Interestingly enough, it was also in theaters the same time as the original Anchorman.
Available on Hulu Plus.
Did SeaWorld pay for the product placement in Anchorman 2? There had to be a deal of some kind for the movie to use their brand for the park that Ron Burgundy works at early on. And just as everything SeaWorld now reminds us of the new documentary Blackfish (such as the Thanksgiving Day Parade float), this particular scene kept having me wonder how the company’s image is seen here. A lot of people who go to an Anchorman sequel probably haven’t seen a doc critical of SeaWorld’s treatment of killer whales (none of which are in this scene, interestingly enough), but now they should. I could pitch it like so: if you thought Ron Burgundy made SeaWorld look bad with his drunken, harassing behavior, check out the movie that is really hurting the theme park. Then again, I bet a lot of Anchorman fans would go to SeaWorld if Ron Burgundy was part of the show. Maybe that’s how SeaWorld can boost attendance during the controversy.
I don’t love the recent Muppets reboot, but I couldn’t help wanting to revisit it while watching the first act of Anchorman 2. Like the Muppets, the Channel 4 news team of Ron, Champ, Brian and Brick have gone their separate ways and have to be rallied back together for a new show. The best parallel between the two groups is the recruitments of Gonzo and Brian, both of whom have become pretty rich and successful on their own. If only Brian was seen blowing up his mansion before getting into the van with his old friends.
Of the four actors who make up the Channel 4 news team characters, Will Ferrell, Steve Carell and Paul Rudd have only gotten more famous in the past ten years (and Rudd will be even bigger after playing Ant-Man). But David Koechner, who plays Champ, has stayed at about the same level (in spite of receiving an Oscar campaign for Best Supporting Actor in 2005’s Thank You For Smoking). At least he’s been working rather steadily in TV and movies, but he hasn’t had a great role of note. Until this year, when in addition to getting to play Champ again he co-starred in the SXSW Audience Award winner Cheap Thrills. He’s received high marks from critics for his performance in the film as a wealthy sadist who pays two guys to do some nasty dares, but even if he didn’t display greater acting talent than he usually offers it’d be enough just to see him in a part this big and fully written in a notably well-received work — not something like The Comebacks or Piranha 3DD.
Opens theatrically March 21, 2014.
Me and You and Everyone We Know
Before seeing Anchorman 2, I saw a tweet asking if Kristen Wiig is supposed to be playing Miranda July in the movie, and that’s all I could think of while watching Wiig’s scenes. Outside of the hairdo being very much like July’s was in her breakout feature and a high level of awkwardness, it’s not that apt a comparison, just a funny joke. If it’s a joke that can get people to watch Me and You and Everyone We Know, then it’s a joke worth making. Funny enough, Wiig and July both appeared in the same episode of Portlandia (Season 2, Episode 6) but not in the same sketch. I wonder if they’ve met.
I wasn’t familiar with Meagan Good before seeing Anchorman 2, in which she plays the head of the new cable news network. But it turns out she’s been working for decades, having started out as a child actress. Her first noteworthy role was at age 16 as the main character’s older sister in Eve’s Bayou. Two years earlier, she made her film debut as “Kid #2” in this Ice Cube classic. I always love a good excuse to watch Friday, and this time it’s to spot little Meagan getting annoyed with Chris Tucker as she tries to get some ice cream. She even gets a line.
Ron Burgundy is the Jim Morrison of news. Well, the news team is like a rock group, anyway, with Ron as the lead singer who gets the most attention while his band mates are tossed aside by both him and those trying to make him an even bigger star. It’s a familiar story, with The Doors being just one example. But there’s a moment in Anchorman 2 where Ron is rising in fame and there’s a big party in his honor and the other three in his team become annoyed and leave, which reminded me of the scene in Oliver Stone‘s biopic where Ray, Robbie and John abandon Jim at the Warhol party.
Among a number of anachronistic allusions in Anchorman 2 (this was intentional, by the way, to give a sense of 15 years of cable news all in its beginnings) is Jean-Claude Van Damme making an archival cameo appearance in Ron Burgundy’s eyes when he’s angry. I’m pretty sure it’s a shot from Bloodsport, but I’m not enough of a JCVD expert to know for sure. Between this and the parodies of the Belgian action hero’s epic splits this year, we should all be inspired lately to go back and revisit or introduce ourselves to Van Damme’s martial arts classics.
Available on iTunes.
Blindness jokes are as old as time, I’m sure (the cavemen likely mocked blind people in their tribe), and a lot of the material we get when Ron Burgundy loses his eyesight is very familiar gags. It’s all Mr. Magoo crap. Even though Young Frankenstein‘s blindness humor isn’t totally fresh, either, it’s handled a whole lot better. They don’t go overboard with it. Plus it’s nice to see Gene Hackman in such a silly role.
Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Tiko and the Shark
A man trying to be friends with a shark? Such a crazy, hilarious situation! Only Ron Burgundy wasn’t the first guy to try it, as you’ll see with this very little known Italian film from 1962 about a Polynesian boy who raises a shark and they become best pals. And just like in Anchorman 2, the boy and shark become separated for some time and the animal obviously turns into a killer. In dubbed form it was actually released theatrically by MGM in 1966 and aired on CBS in the ’70s. I’d like to think that Ferrell or Adam McKay saw it in their youth.
Available on DVD in not-so-great quality here.