Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues – A Review

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My mother has taught me a lot of things: how to read, how to drive a car (a terrifying experience to hear her tell it) and how to be a generally decent human being. She also taught me that when multiple cast members of a movie or TV show hit the same talk shows within close proximity of each other, whatever they are promoting is probably not very good. One person promoting the show is normal, but when they trot out the entire cast on the same media outlets that is usually an red flag that they are trying to sell you a bill of goods. Following her reasoning, if more than one cast member appears on LIVE with Kelly and Michael in a short amount of time, promoting the same project, that is definitely not a good sign. Multiple cast members on different talk shows is less telling, but the rule of thumb here is the harder that they are trying to promote something, the more likely it is going to be a turkey. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part this logic rings true. Too much publicity is usually a bad sign.

So I was naturally very concerned when the Anchorman 2 P.R. machine kicked into overdrive in the last few months.  When Anchorman 2 was announced back in March of 2012, I was very excited that the Channel 4 news team was reuniting. It had been almost a decade since the original Anchorman was released, so I had assumed that we would never spend more time with these characters. When Ron Burgundy began popping up on ads for the Dodge Durango and on local news casts I was initially very pleased to have this character back in my life, but as the publicity train kept chugging along I began to worry. Will Ferrell was seemingly everywhere  all of sudden; add in the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor and the Ron Burgundy autobiography and it seemed like they were really giving us the hard sell. This dog and pony show surely meant that they didn’t have a ton of confidence in Anchorman 2; I quickly calibrated my expectations and tried to dampen my enthusiasm to lessen the chance of disappointment. I went in to Anchorman 2 last night expecting it to be downright terrible.

The good news is that the new Anchorman sequel turned out to be much better than I anticipated, though given my expectations that isn’t really saying much. The new film doesn’t tarnish the legacy of Ron Burgundy and company and I giggled through a lot of the film. That being said, I can’t honestly say that I loved the movie or that it was great. The parts that worked the best for me were mainly rehashes of material that they had done in the first film. I walked out of the theater last night relieved that it was not quite the dreadfully unfunny sh*tshow that I had prepared myself for, but still slightly disappointed. Anchorman 2 was silly and generally amusing, but it didn’t have the same reaction as when I saw other comedies like This is The End.

Now my lackluster reaction to Anchorman 2 in and of itself may not be cause for concern, as I didn’t warm to the first Anchorman on my first viewing. In fact, the first time I met Ron Burgundy and the gang, I kind of hated them. I absolutely was not a fan and thought the film was completely stupid. It took multiple viewings – and hanging out with someone who LOVED the movie – for me to finally warm up to it. Somewhere around my third viewing, I began to enjoy the film and by my fifth viewing I was completely won over. Now I regularly quote the film and have real affection for these ridiculous characters. I may follow a similar trajectory with Anchorman 2; these may be films that have to wear me down before I completely love them. Not the most ringing endorsement, but the fact that I didn’t hate Anchorman 2 means that in the grand scheme of things it is already ahead of the game. For me, this films seem to be an acquired taste.

Anchorman 2 moves the action from San Diego to the Big Apple; after a career setback and relationship trouble with Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) is approached to appear on the first of its kind 24 hour news network, GNN. It’s a revolutionary idea for the industry, but first Burgundy must reassemble his news team: Investigative reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Sportcaster Champ Kind (David Koechner) and simple weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell). Once Burgundy arrives, he butts heads with the new anchorman wunderkind Jack Lime (James Marsden) and his African-American producer Linda Jackson (Meagan Good). Along the way there are a ton of celebrity cameos and critiques of the content and tenor of cable news programming.

The film employs something of a scattershot method for jokes; they throw a lot of them at you and just hope that the majority of them land. I’d say the majority of them do, though there are some definite thuds; thankfully if you don’t find a particular joke funny, you just have to wait a minute or two and there’ll be another joke that might be more to your liking. I personally didn’t find the race related material all that great, but it was a minor part of the story and wasn’t a major distraction. Anchorman 2 really is a lot of silliness and a lot of callbacks to things that they did in the first film. Brick’s screen time has been greatly increased, a nod to the success that Steve Carell has enjoyed since the first film. He even gets his own subplot involving a love interest (Kristen Wiig). Brian and Champ are left to be more supporting characters, which is fine because a little of them (especially Champ) goes a long way. Though I appreciated the references to Anchorman, there was the sense that I had seen a lot of this before. It felt like they were trying a bit too hard with the catchphrases and while I definitely appreciated the return of the news team rumble, I would have liked a bit more originality. What seemed novel in the first film feels too premeditated in the second.

Nevertheless, I did giggle throughout the film; Anchorman 2 is full of the same lunacy as the original film. If anything, they may have doubled down on the nuttiness. This is definitely the theater of the absurd; there’s an entire subplot involving a baby shark named Doby.  I found the critiques of cable news to be the most amusing of jokes, not unsurprising given my background in political science and communications. It’s kind of an easy target, but they do a nice job with it. I am guessing that if you liked the first film you will generally like Anchorman 2, though probably not as much. The sequel isn’t the disaster that I predicted, but it does feel a little like reheated leftovers. I’m not sure this was completely worth the nearly 9 year wait for a sequel. However, if history is any guide, I’ll be more enthusiastic about Anchorman 2 after repeated viewings. Right now I found Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues fairly amusing, but not hilarious.

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Awards Season Edition

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – no, not Christmas, but the beginning of awards season. While some people are looking forward to decorating their tree or picking out the perfect present, I am anticipating all the great new movies that are coming out and who will be nominated for all the top awards. To me, December 25th is the day that The Wolf of Wall Street comes out; is there something else going on?

Until we are inundated with awards ceremonies, kill some time by perusing my biweekly roundup of pop culture stories that you may have missed. There is a lot of pop culture goodies this week.

  • Someone made a recreation of the mall chase scene in The Blues Brothers with LEGOs:

Shh….don’t tell anyone, but I’ve never seen The Blues Brothers.

  • Stephen Colbert, a huge Tokien fan, will have a cameo in the second The Hobbit film.
  • I am still mad at you people for not watching Happy Endings, but you can redeem yourself when the entire series airs on VH1.
  • This is great – some child actors re-enacted the “triple-dog-dare” scene from A Christmas Story on a NYC subway:

Seriously – my subway rides are so boring compared to this.

  • Lady Gaga is going out on tour; I’m trying to convince myself that I don’t have to go.
  • The Anchorman 2 publicity train made a stop at Saturday Night Live last weekend:

 

  • Ron Burgundy does some legendary sports calls:

 

  • Though his hosting duties on Sportscenter were scrapped, ESPN released Ron Burgundy’s interview with the great Peyton Manning:

 

  • Starting December 27th, AMC is airing every episode of Breaking Bad. So all you people that haven’t caught up officially no longer have any excuses. It will be followed by a marathon of The Walking Dead.
  • If you are still on the fence about seeing Frozen after my review, watch the full performance of the song “Let It Go.” If that doesn’t convince you, nothing will.
  • Everyone’s favorite local sports anchor is back with a segment with 43 Christmas Vacation references:

 

  • Speaking of…meet the contestants for the 6th season of perhaps America’s greatest reality show.

 

  • See Mad Men’s John Slattery before he became a silver fox:

 

  • Some Breaking Bad graffiti turned up in Leicester Square:

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  • There is a petition to name a newly discovered planet after Doctor Who’s homeland Gallifrey.
  • This star of Inside Llewyn Davis does a folk version of Katy Perry’s “Roar” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon:

 

  • Dann Florek (Captain Cragan) is leaving Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
  • We have done something to anger the Gods; Rebecca Blank (“Friday”) is back with a new song, the aptly titled “Saturday.” Only 5 more days to go and this nightmare is over:

 

  • The Kardashian/Jenner clan (klan?) have released their Christmas card and it’s batshit crazy  (and missing a lot of people):

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  • The Killers cast Owen Wilson in their new music video:

 

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  • I have never had a barista this talented:

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  • Watch Snoop and Martha Stewart make some mashed potatoes:

 

  • Chris Elliott will appear on this season of Community.
  • Bart Simpson made an appearance on American Dad:

 

  • Actress Malin Akerman and her husband have split.
  • Jay Z ranked his own albums.
  • Benedict Cumbatch reading R. Kelly lyrics is fantastic:

 

Trailer break!

  • Barefoot with Evan Rachel Wood

 

  • A red band trailer (NSFW) for Jason Bateman’s directorial debut, Bad Words.

 

  • A teaser trailer for the new season of Community:

 

  • Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis in Jupiter Ascending:

 

  • A teaser trailer for the new season of Justified:

 

  • The Asylum is really committing to this whole shark thing with Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark (yup – that’s Debbie Gibson):

 

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s new reality show is coming in January:

 

  • Heisenberg Bryan Cranston in Godzilla:

 

  • The Amazing Spiderman 2:

 

  • The ABC comedy The Goldbergs will do a Goonies inspired episode.
  • In advance of Muppets Most Wanted, Disney is releasing a series of web episodes. The first one features Gordon Ramey (and The Miz, if you know the WWE):

Serious question – when did the Swedish Chef start having human hands? I noticed this during the Lady Gaga special on Thanksgiving and it FREAKS ME THE HELL OUT.

As always, we end with the Mashups and Supercuts:

  • Bohemian Rhapsody meets Star Wars:

 

  • President Obama sings “Jingle Bells”

 

  • The Hungover Games (a parody of The Hunger Games and The Hangover, among other things) is a REAL MOVIE:

I am totally watching this.

  • Mean Elves (Mean Girls/The Hobbit mashup):

 

  • A Doctor Who/A-Ha mashup:

 

  • A mashup of 68 songs from 2013:

 

  • 50 TV theme songs in five minutes:

 

  • And finally, Sesame Street has been killing it with their parodies. See them take on Lord of the Rings in Lord of the Crumbs:

Ron Burgundy Wednesday

I am currently without my car, as it sits at the garage awaiting its final diagnosis about why it has been so jumpy lately. I’ve had this car for over 11 years and this is the first real problem that I’ve had with it, so while I anticipate a semi-expensive resolution I can’t really complain. The car has taken me on many of my pop culture adventures and while I am sure we are ending our partnership sooner rather than later, I’m hoping to at least make it through the winter before I have to go car shopping. I’ve been amazingly lucky in the car department – I’ve had only two cars since I’ve turned 16 and got 10+ years out of both of them. Not too shabby.

I dropped my car off at the garage last night, so I was effectively home-bound most of the evening once I got a ride back to my apartment. I decided to take advantage of my stranded status to read Ron Bugundy’s new book, Let Me Off at the Top! My Classy Life and Other Musings. As a fan of Anchorman, I was curious what exactly this faux biography would be like. Would the jokes work on paper as well as they do in the films? Was this a shameless money grab, timed to tie in with the release of the new Anchorman movie in December? Would the memoir be completely silly?

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The answer to all three of these questions is yes. While Let Me Off at the Top is not any work of great literature (contrary to what Mr. Burgundy will tell you), it was a fairly amusing read. It doesn’t really add much to the storylines from either Anchorman movie – he skips over the time that is chronicled in his “documentaries” – it is a fun little trifle that fans of the franchise will get a kick out off. It is definitely a shameless tie in with the new movie, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While the book is a complete exercise in lunacy, I found myself quietly chuckling during a number of passages. It helps if you can imagine the book narrated by Will Ferrell in character. Whoever actually wrote this book has a pretty good understanding of Burgundy and the memoir feels like an extension of what we’ve seen in Anchorman (and what I expect we’ll see in Anchorman 2). The author gets the comic sensibility just right.

So what exactly is in a memoir by legendary newsman Ron Burgundy? As the title indicated, Let Me Off at the Top! is not necessary a cohesive chronological account of the character’s life, but a collection of random musings and stories. It covers some of Burgundy’s early life in Haggleworth, Iowa as the youngest of a rough and tumble brood of eight boys but it also jumps around to cover the formation of his news team, his rules for surviving a prison riot and how to woo a woman and his night of passion with Bruce Lee. The book also includes the first chapter of another book that Burgundy is hoping to write on the history of Mexico. The stories are peppered with references to celebrities and other newscasters and there are occasionally photos interspersed in-between his legendary tales.  He also randomly chronicles his on-going feud with his neighbor over a leaf blower.

Half the fun of the book is the sheer lunacy of the stories and the unpredictable nature of the narrative. The book may be silly, but it is not boring. You never know when a story about one thing will lead to something totally unexpected: a story about jackalope hunting with Bobby Kennedy and Peter Lawford leads to a discussion of the splendor of the Las Vegas breakfast buffet and camping trips with Channel 4 news team. The book is all over the place, but in the best way possible. There is a story about a mission he did for President George H.W. Bush that is mostly redacted. He pens his own “new and improved” lyrics to the National Anthem. He outs Barbra Streisand and Tom Brokaw as lovers. He is pro-gay rights. You literally have no idea what is going to be “revealed” in the next paragraph; I really don’t know how they came up with some of this stuff. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of pot was involved.

Let Me Off at the Top! My Classy Life and Other Musings is in no way required readings and walks a very fine line between being absolutely hilarious and completely stupid. It doesn’t always walk that line well, but the bonus is that because the book hops around so much, it usually rights itself pretty quickly. This is not a sophisticated book; there is plenty of sophomoric humor, which shouldn’t be unexpected if you know the movies (and if you don’t know the movies, why are you reading this?). Some of the wording is a little repetitive and it totally overuses exclamation points, but that is in keeping with the Burgundy character. I pre-ordered the Kindle version of the book for under $5, which I think is about the right price for it; I don’t think you’d want to bother springing for the hardcover version. You really have to be a fan of Anchorman to get anything out of this book; if you found the movie lacking, you aren’t going to dig the book at all. But if you frequently tell people that “milk was a bad choice” than you might find the book a fun little diversion. It isn’t very long (a smart movie for a novelty book like this) and is instantly quotable. I’m sure I’ll be pulling out a few nuggets to drop into my regular lexicon. GQ rounds up some of their favorite passages, but I think they missed some of the best. Most of the celebrities that he references in the book are dead (Burgundy is, after all, 73 years old now according to the book), but I’m curious what Doris Kearns Goodwin, Katie Couric and Brian Williams, among others, think about their inclusion. I’d be flattered personally, but something tells me that Streisand doesn’t have a great sense of humor.

In keeping with the Burgundy theme, I also wanted to give an update on my quest for Ben and Jerry’s new Anchorman inspired flavor, Scotchy Scotch Scotch. After several weeks of making unnecessary trips to various supermarkets in my quest to find it, I finally stumbled upon it this week at our local Wal-mart. I am almost embossed to say how excited I got when my eyes glanced across the freezer and spotted this inside:

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If they check the security footage, they will see one happy girl. I was partially excited to finally be able to sample the flavor, but I was also relieved that I completed my search, since I wound up buying a lot of other flavors of ice cream while looking for Scotchy Scotch Scotch. I felt weird leaving the grocery store without buying anything if they didn’t have the Anchorman ice cream, so I wound up with a freezer full of Ben and Jerry’s that proved to be too tempting for me to resist. Suffice it to say, I’ve had ice cream for dinner a LOT lately.

Scotchy Scotch Scotch certainly lives up to its name; while it isn’t high in alcohol content, the ice cream is definitely butterscotch-y. I like butterscotch and it was almost too much for me. That didn’t stop me from eventually polishing off the whole pint, mind you, but I don’t know if I would necessarily seek it out again. I think they needed something else in the ice cream to cut the sweetness of the butterscotch. Butterscotch ice cream with butterscotch swirls is a lot of butterscotch to process. If you aren’t partial to the confectionery, don’t even bother with the ice cream. You won’t like it.

And finally, I acquired a new toy for my desk at work: a LEGO minifig decked out to look like the man himself, Ron Burgundy (complete with a mini bottle of Scotch).

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He’s a welcome addition to the office and makes me smile every time I look at it. I’ve had a ton of people ask me where they can get one; he’s proven to be more popular than my LEGO minifigs of Walter White and Omar Little.

Stay Classy, readers.

Let Me Off at the Top! My Classy Life and Other Musings by Ron Burgundy was released Tuesday November 19th; you can read an excerpt here. Ben and Jerry’s has created a flavor locator to assist people in finding Scotchy Scotch Scotch. The 70s news anchor minifig was available on ETSY, but appears to be sold out. I am a trend setter.