by Steve Habrat
In 2004, funnyman Will Ferrell introduced the world to Ron Burgundy, the inappropriate goofball of a news anchor in the beloved comedy Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. The mustachioed moron was so popular with audiences that they almost instantly started begging for a second helping of Mr. Burgundy’s antics. After almost ten years of waiting, fans finally have their follow-up. Truth be told, I was never a big fan of the scotch-swilling Mr. Burgundy and his equally obnoxious Channel 4 crew members, even though I tried so hard to see what everyone thought was so funny about them. They spouted off random and inconsistent jokes that never seemed to rise above mild chuckles, yet everyone roared on with delight and stared at me like I slapped an infant when I said I wasn’t a very big fan of Anchorman. Now we have director Adam McKay’s Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and I’m sad to report that this crew of comedians couldn’t win me over on their second round. In addition to just not being very funny, Anchorman 2 is a dull and, frankly, boring comedy that simply recycles a large chunks of the worn-out jokes that were used the first time around.
Anchorman 2 picks up in the early 80s, with news anchor Ron Burgundy (played by Ferrell) and his wife, Veronica Corningstone (played by Christina Applegate), staring a promotion in the eye. It turns out that their boss and idol, Mack Tannen (played by Harrison Ford), is stepping down from his position as a nightly news anchor, leaving the position open to Ron and Veronica. After a tense meeting with Tannen, the job is offered to Veronica, which makes her the first woman to host a nightly news program. In a surprise move, Tannen decides to fire Ron for years of imbecilic behavior on the air, leaving the cocky newsman distraught and humiliated. Things get worse for Ron after he storms out on his marriage and ends up hosting a show at Sea World. After loosing his job at Sea World, Ron is approached by Freddie Sharp (played by Dylan Baker), who works for an up-and-coming 24-hour news network run by Kench Allenby (played by Josh Lawson) and Linda Jackson (played by Meagan Good). Ron accepts the offer under the condition that he can reunite his former news team, which consisted of Brian Fantana (played by Paul Rudd), Champ Kind (played by David Koechner), and Brick Tamland (played by Steve Carell). Everything seems to be going great for the reunited team, but after several run-ins with rival news anchor Jack Lime (played by James Marsden), the group begins waging a ratings war at their new network. In an attempt to be number one, Ron makes a bold choice to report on what people want to hear rather than what they need to hear, changing the course of news history.
While a good majority of the jokes in Anchorman 2 are met with crickets from the audience, the film still manages to cleverly poke fun at a long list of news stations including CNN, NBC, Fox News, and HLN, to name a few. There is something realistically amusing about watching Mr. Burgundy as he incorrectly speculates about a wild car chase, smokes crack on the air, reports on puff pieces, and shouts over a slew of guests battling to have their opinions heard. It’s all undeniably clever and it marks the few places where Anchorman 2 actually finds some momentum, but once McKay drifts away from the newsroom shenanigans, the film succumbs to juvenile silliness that bores more than it amuses. When Ron isn’t busy erupting in disbelief over the fact that one of his new bosses is black, there are bizarre screaming fits and staring contests between Carell’s Brick and his new crush, Chani (played by Kristen Wiig). There is the expected clueless racism and “WHAMMY” explosions from Champ Kind, who has also opened a new chicken restaurant that serves up breaded bats to its patrons. The only one who really gets a few good cracks in is Rudd, who seems to be able to sell any material he is given, even when he delivered the same jokes the first time around. There’s no doubt that the guys enjoy playing these characters and they are eating up the opportunity to ad-lib their way through the performances, but you’re left feeling like a group of talented comedians like this could have come up with better jokes, ones that could split your sides.
As far as the supporting roles and cameos go, Anchorman 2 finds plenty of funny men and women stepping in front of the camera to drive up the hilarity level. While there are too many to name here and some are best left a surprise, there are still some that play key roles within the film. Wiig’s Chani is basically a female version of Brick, a knuckleheaded dweeb that meets Carell’s string of nonsense with her own brand of offbeat comments. Meagan Good is fairly dull as Linda Jackson, Ron’s sassy African American boss who finds herself attracted to the scotch-and-flute loving news anchor. Applegate’s Veronica Corningstone remains largely the same, there to be exasperated with Ron’s belligerent behavior. Dylan Baker’s Freddie Sharp basically just grins from behind a pair of sunglasses and acts as the glue that holds Ron and his team together. Marsden is having a good time as Jack Lime, the rival news anchor that never misses a chance to rip Ron apart. Rounding out the main cast is Harrison Ford, who scowls in true Ford fashion through his role of Mack Tanen. Overall, while it does an excellent job spoofing 24-hour television news stations, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues still manages to feel like it’s on cruise control (much like Ron’s tumbling Winnebago). It looks like the cast had a great time throwing on the period clothing and hanging out with each other, but you know you have a problem when you’re marketing campaign ends up being funnier than your scattershot film.
by Steve Habrat
In the seemingly endless string of zombie films out there, 2007’s indie horror comedy Fido is one that is painfully overlooked and I can’t understand why. This gee-whiz hunk of Americana cheese mixed up in the gooey zombie genre is such a fun little flick that I can’t believe horror fans don’t make more of a fuss about it. A sunny little Canadian picture directed by Andrew Currie, Fido ambles along on its ironic joke that finds zombies shuffling about a cheery 50’s era suburb but the hilarity doesn’t stop at the basic premise. This film has some gut-busting jokes that are neatly embedded in all the comic book chaos as well as knee-slapping nods to the B-movies that were all the rage in the Eisenhower era. Fido also works due to the touching spark between K’Sun Ray’s Timmy and Billy Connolly’s Fido, the friendliest and smartest zombie to lurch across the screen since Bub in Day of the Dead. While you will be beaming through about eighty-five percent of the picture, Fido does stumble a little at the end, which is a shame because things were going so swimmingly. Even if it stumbles, you will still be giggling as a happy-go-lucky tune from the atomic era bops along the soundtrack as the living dead munch on the entrails of the living. How can you argue with THAT?
Fido takes place in an alternate 1950’s universe where a radiation cloud from space has drifted to Earth and awoken the flesh hungry undead. Just in the nick of time, a company called ZomCom have invented a collar that suppresses the undead’s hunger for warm human flesh. In addition to the collars, ZomCom have erected massive fences that keep the zombies out of the small, picturesque towns that dot the United States. It has also become all the rage to “own” a zombie servant, one who serves you dinner and performs other mundane tasks around the house. It is in one of these small towns that we meet Timmy Robinson (Played by K’Sun Ray), an inquisitive little boy who is bullied at school and largely ignored by his distracted father, Bill Robinson (Played by Dylan Baker). Timmy does find some affection and attention from his mother, Helen Robinson (Played by Carrie-Anne Moss). When one of ZomCom’s zombie control specialists moves in across the street from the Robinson’s, Helen notices that the family has six servant zombies. Embarrassed that she doesn’t have one, Helen goes out and gets Fido (Played by Billy Connolly), which enrages Bill but delights Timmy. Timmy and Fido begin bonding but after a nasty accident in the park, the safety of their peaceful community is threatened.
Cleverly using the conformist 50’s as the backdrop, when it was heavily encouraged ship off to the suburbs and start a family, Fido suggests that conformity turns us all into mindless lurching zombies. It would make zombie godfather George Romero proud while it keeps the rest of us in stitches. The implication is a bit obvious at times, never as subtle as something Romero would have produced in his heyday but it is easily forgivable. Fido is also all dressed up as a cute 50’s B-movies that echoes the atomic willies that came out of the detonation of the atom bomb. The beginning of the film is a newsreel that looks like it could have been borrowed from a drive-in of yesterday, only a touch funnier and without the whole duck-and-cover advise from the optimistic, reassuring narrator. While it can be warm and fuzzy, Currie doesn’t forget the finishing touch, a touch that consists of bucks of fake blood and guts. The gore isn’t always here for the hell of it and Currie uses it to add to the heavy doses of irony. One scene finds a zombie getting shot right in the head in the middle of a sunny suburban street, where kids play, cars trudge by, and sundress clad housewives eagerly await the arrival of their husbands after a long day at the office (martinis ARE included). After we hear the gunshot, Currie cuts to a shot of brains and blood splattering all over a white picket fence and a bunch of flowers. It was perhaps my favorite shot in all of Fido.
Fido is also a success due to the performances from Moss, Ray, and Connolly, all who do a marvelous job in this overlooked gem. Moss is wonderful as a housewife suffering from a severe case of ennui. She is a wonderful mother who is desperate to shake things up. Her lassitude with her money-obsessed husband is heartrending, mostly because she is filled with so much pent up warmth, warmth she transfers to both Timmy and Fido. Ray is also a joy as the curious Timmy, a target of neighborhood bullies who just longs for a buddy. Ray is so good as a quirky squirt that thinks outside the box and his chemistry with Fido is unbelievably strong. Thankfully, Connolly also picks up on the chemistry and plays off the young actor quite nicely. Fido is a cuddly ghoul who shrieks and moans over a thunderstorm and even rushes home to grab Helen when Timmy is in trouble. He’s like a cooler Lassie, with two legs, less hair, and more decaying flesh. Dylan Baker really gets into a groove as the cranky Bill, who hates to have his routine disrupted and loathes the shuffling Fido. Tim Blake Nelson shows up as Mr. Theopolis, an ex-employee of ZomCom who is romantically linked to his zombie servant Tammy (Played by Sonja Bennett). Henry Czerny also drops by as ZomCom’s security chief Mr. Bottoms, a nasty piece of work who suspects that Timmy and Fido may be up to no good.
The last fifteen minutes of Fido is where things really go south. The climax erupts into tons of zombie pandemonium with one main character biting the dust. There really isn’t any emotional weight to the sequence but the laughs allow the clunky final act to keep its head above water. Things are brushed over a little too quickly for my tastes and it feels like the filmmakers almost ran out of money and had to condense the final moments. I would have also liked to see Fido embrace a little bit of horror. Things do get a bit tense but it never gets particularly freaky which was slightly disappointing. Still, the first hour and fifteen minutes of Fido are extremely sharp, from the set design all the way to the rapid-fire script from Currie, Robert Chomiak, and Dennis Heaton. The laughs are solid and the relationship between a boy and his zombie will work its way into your heart. For fans of the zombie genre, Fido is a must. Fans of the comedy genre, make sure to move Fido up to the top of your list. You will walk away more than satisfied.
Fido is available on Blu-ray and DVD.