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
For those of you out there who were convinced that Judd Apatow was nothing but a sexist who made movies simply for immature males and about male tribulations have an argument no longer. Mr. Apatow and director Paul Feig have officially made a movie for females that tackle arduous female relationships with each other and themselves. To all the men out there who are writing Bridesmaids off as a “chick flick” need to suck it up and take the trip to pick up the Blu-ray because I guarantee you are going to laugh your ass off. Bridesmaids leaves the recent string of “bromance” films in its comedic dust and can proudly call itself one of the funniest movies since The 40 Year-Old Virgin. Much of its success lies on the slim shoulders of the comedienne in the center of all the pandemonium and that little lady is SNL alum Kristen Wiig. Wiig co-wrote the script with her pal Annie Mumolo and it is drenched in wicked shrewdness along with many other bodily fluids. Wiig also happens to prove to the suits out there that she can indeed carry a film and does not have to settle for the occasional cameo or background character. Her performance here is strikingly similar to what we saw from Steve Carell in The 40 Year-Old Virgin.
If one were to quickly glance at the title of this film and have no clue what the film is about, many would assume that it’s some new Kate Hudson bomb that follows her shallow quest to pull Matthew McConaughey for the fifth time. A disposable romantic comedy that presumes Hudson breaking a heel and falling down is comedic brilliance. The type of film that will last for about a month at the theater and then quickly make it’s way to DVD. It’s refreshing to see Wiig, who up until this film had not snagged herself a starring vehicle, a woman with pitch-perfect comedic timing step up to the plate to play Annie, a woman who has seemingly hit rock bottom. She is a victim of the recession as her bakery she started has been reduced to a boarded up graffiti wall. We also learn that her boyfriend picked up and ditched her after her bakery closed down. She spends her nights with a wealthy playboy (Played by a never better John Hamm) and spends her days paling around with her best friend Lillian (Played by another SNL alum and real life BFF Maya Rudolph). Annie complains to Lillian about her problems and figures she will always have a shoulder to lean on with her. That is until Lillian drops the bomb on Annie and proclaims that she is getting married. At the engagement party, Annie is introduced to the wildly colorful bridal party. She meets innocent Becca (Played by The Office’s Ellie Kemper), bored-housewife-with-a dark-side Rita (Played by Reno 911’s Wendi McLendon-Covey), the uber-confidant Megan (Played by scene-stealing Melissa McCarthy), and the wealthy and malicious Helen (played by Insidious star Rose Byrne). Annie finds herself pitted against Helen in the quest for maid of honor and hilariously self-destructs from the battle.
Wiig manages to play Annie not as a desperate-for-love caricature but as a wounded and vulnerable heroine. We root for her to, yes, find love but also to hold on to her best friend even as Annie and Lillian grow further and further apart. The universe has come crashing down on this poor soul and she is more desperate than ever to find a friend she can actually trust and does not come equipped with ulterior motives. Wiig also does the seemingly impossible task of making a horrific breakdown uproariously hilarious. There are scenes in this movie that will leave you howling with laughter and scenes that will have you wishing Annie was a real flesh-and-blood human you could give a big sympathetic hug and reassure her that everything will be okay.
It is an absolute thrill to watch Wiig and Mumolo lob a rowdily unpredictable comedic sequence that begins subtle and erupts into full on chaos at the audience. A bridal gown fitting that ends with food poisoning will bring you to your knees with laughter and shrieking “Oh, my God!” and a prescription drugs and scotch fueled meltdown on a plane to Vegas tops anything that was found in the incredibly overrated Hangover in terms of shock comedy. Wiig’s physical comedy comes to a head as she suffers a nervous breakdown during a shower in Helen’s mansion and battles Helen’s excessive wealth and her ability to purchase friends by throwing down with a giant cookie. Wait until you see it. It should join the ranks as one of the funniest scenes in the history of comedy.
When you’re not recovering from the countless belly laughs (trust me, there are PLENTY!), there is a scene of hushed, sincere emotion that will leave you speechless. Ones that left the entire packed theater silent in the particular showing I attended way back in May. You could actually feel the heartbreak hovering in the room and it became almost painful to sit and watch. One scene finds Annie confronted by the chunky Megan that is the definition of powerful and uplifting. Or a scene that shows Annie telling her mother that things have gone from bad to worse that will tug your heartstrings until they snap. It will warm your heart when Annie begins to find love with a sensitive Irish cop Rhodes, played by the charismatic Chris O’Dowd. The film is a testament to what great script writing and great direction can do for a film.
The ladies of Bridesmaids manage to prove that they can party just as hard as the boys and leave the Wolfpack looking like a bunch of cubs. They are real, honest, and hugely likeable even when they are reduced to hot messes. The performances here are what make the film seem effortless and strangely protracted. Like all Apatow films, it drags on about twenty minutes too long, but you’ll be willing to overlook it mostly because it blindsides you with overwhelming emotion. From the male perspective, it was nice to sit on the sidelines this time around and let the film just wash over me. It’s going to dispatch women from the theater to debate about the mechanics of their relationships just as Apatow’s “bromance” films struck chords with men. Already a strong contender for the best comedy of the year, Bridesmaids needs to party it’s way to the top of your must-see list. Grade: B+
Bridesmaids is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
by Steve Habrat
Here is the ugly truth about the romantic comedy genre: The well has run dry! In the past years, it has had nothing new to offer on the topic of love, romance, and the comedy has sure been nonexistent. The genre has been forced to evolve in the most bizarre ways imaginable. It has stopped limiting itself to heterosexual relationships and branched out into “bromance” films, which include movies like the innocently hilarious I Love You, Man, the coming-of-age Superbad and the Adam Sandler monstrosity I Know Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Sadly, the bromance films were just acting as the placebo tablet to the sickly genre that was riddled with cancer in the form of Kate Hudson. They were a nice distraction from the obvious but they refused to break new ground. They just remained stationary and unprogressive. We laughed it up but by the time we got The Hangover Part II, I think most people had had more than enough of the man and man action.
Thankfully, in saunters the confident and unapologetic Crazy, Stupid, Love and it is just in the nick of time. Goldie Locks Kate attempted once this summer and critics hissed in disgust but Steve Carell and his merry gang of gifted, pretty faces saved the day. The truly amazing aspect is that Crazy, Stupid, Love is one of the best films of the year so far. The film is teeming with life and it manages to be reassuring for the genre and the audience itself. The film covers all the stops when it comes to love and infatuation all the while fluffing off its PG-13 rating with a devil-may-care charm. Carell plays Cal, a slouchy everyman who appears to be just going through the motions of his marriage. He’s plain and downright insipid. He can’t talk to his wife Emily (Played by Julianne Moore) about anything over dinner except the fact that he ate too much bread and now he’s full. He now finds himself faced with the horrorific decision of what to order. Suddenly, Emily announces she wants a divorce from her husband of twenty-five years. She proceeds to tell him she has slept with someone else and she needs out. Cal is devastated and becomes a self-pitying sad sack.
While sulking in a posh bar, Cal meets Jacob (Played by the always welcome Ryan Gosling), a suave smooth talker who has no problem luring the ladies to bed. He approaches Cal and tells him he can make him over from the bumbling dud into a self-assured stud. He does and the transformation is downright side splitting. But Jacob soon decides to leave the game in pursuit of a sexy, over-achieving law student named Hannah (Played by Emma Stone, who appears to be everywhere this summer!).
Crazy, Stupid, Love is loaded with side stories and appealing background characters that make the film a joy to behold from second to second. The jokes are fast and the subject matter bold but the film presents it in such a sweet manner that you can’t be disgusted by it even if you tried. Even when the film finds itself at the most envelope pushing moments, know that the film is going to deliver one of the most satisfying payoffs imaginable. I won’t spoil too much of the raucous antics that follow, but it all adds up to a ten minute sequence that will have you howling with laughter. It all plays into the theme of the movie—love is crazy and we all act stupid in the face of it. When the bombshell Marisa Tomei shows up as horn ball teacher that Cal woos to bed, Cal lights up like a kid at Christmas when she asks what he wants to do with her in the throws of passion. Trust me, you will die laughing from his response. I guess when love and lust strike, we are all reduced to behaving like children.
The film boasts a shot-on-the-fly vérité approach at points and this adds to the down-to-earth mentality of the film. It has moments of raw emotion, especially in a scene where the separated Cal and Emily meet up at a parent/teacher conference. They have a heart-to-heart that will have many audience members’ eyes welling up with crocodile tears. The film hits exceptionally hard when it chooses but I guess that’s what love does—it hits us hard when we least expect it. Furthermore, love itself can be a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, just like the film. One second it will have us beaming and the next, we will be at its mercy. It gets us to lower our defenses and then it strikes. That, my dear friends, is what solid scriptwriting and filmmaking is all about.
I can only hope and pray with everything in me that this film is remembered come awards season. I hope that the Academy will be willing to sift through all the rubble from those superheroes and rediscover this gem. It’s taboo and reassuring all at the same time. You will fall head over heels for Carell and Gosling, both who play their characters as if they will never have another chance to be in front of the camera again. Moore plays the moist eyed Emily with her heart on her sleeve. She’s despicable in one moment and the grabbing our empathy the next. Stone brings her usual girl-next-door charm to Hannah. She is an actress to keep a close eye on and Crazy, Stupid, Love allows her to really convey some depth.
From the performances to the directing to the finely weaved story, Crazy, Stupid, Love is a finely polished piece of filmmaking. One that will be calling you back to take some comfort in it again even if you are not particularly bumming from lost love at the moment. I think it calls us back because these characters seem so real that we sincerely enjoy being in their company. It also features something literally everyone can relate to in some manner. In a summer filled with larger than life pictures released every Friday, this small, intimate portrait of emotion is the one that will leave the biggest impression on the viewer. Rejoice that the romantic comedy is still holding on to dear life. There’s still some life in that old dog yet! I can’t recommend this film enough. Grade: A