Apparently, even though I’m going to be writing about a movie that hit theaters months ago, I should still write SPOILER ALERT because I’ll be talking about a film that some of you out there may not yet have seen and may yet be planning to see, so that I do not ruin your cinematic experience. So here you are: in the following post, I will be writing about Anchorman 2, and I mention some things that happen in it. If this damages your enjoyment in any way, I assure you, it will only be in that I kept the film from disappointing you in its own right.
I should say outright that with only a few exceptions, I do not get mired in brands when it comes to celebrities. Meaning, I have very little loyalty to one star or another. Movie stars, larger than life though they may be, are at the end of the day simple human beings like the rest of us, and are therefore prone to making the same errors in judgment that the rest of us make. What I do have is movie star brand disloyalty, which makes me avoid certain personalities like the plague (I’m looking at you, Seth Rogen. Do you ever play a role that is in any way unlike every other role you have ever played ever? Are they even roles? Fie!). That, however, is another blarg for another day.
So, no brand loyalty with a few notable exceptions. I tend to be willing to try out anything featuring Leonardo DiCaprio. (He’s just so dreamy.) Sandra Bullock I find to be another safe bet. See, I think this, and then I start to write about it, and then I start to actually analyze it, and I realize that these are stars which tend toward drama. Comedy is a fickle beesting (more gouda there, use your imagination). I don’t have any comedy loyalties. I WISH I DID. I really do. I read a great quote a few years back from my Spirit Guide, Douglas Adams, about how comedy used to be like a delightful spring rainshower – rare, refreshing, and awesome – but recently it’s just everywhere, pooling in muddy puddles and just generally making you damp. I mangled the words but I think I preserved the feeling. Everybody does comedy now. Even I am trying to do comedy of a sort here at the blarg. You can find it anywhere, which means it’s no longer surprising, which takes away one of the critical elements of comedy. If you expect something to be funny, you dramatically decrease the chance that it actually will be.
One of the reasons I specifically try to avoid Movie Star Brand Loyalty (MSBL) is that it leads to Crappy Sequels You Didn’t Really Need (CSYDRNs). Hey, we made this movie featuring this movie star and it was hugely successful, let’s make another one to capitalize on it, HEY for that to work we need the original movie star back again, even if that doesn’t make terrific sense for the world of the story, but who cares because MONEY.
Which brings me to the point. Wife and I saw Anchorman 2 this weekend past.
Allow me to clarify that I like (but do not love) the original Anchorman. It’s absurd, satirical, nonsensical and, often, funny, but above all else it’s telling a story that’s worth telling. You’ve got the idiotic Ron Burgundy, whose character flaws get him first into trouble, then fired, and his journey to atone for his mistakes drives the story forward until at the end he’s on top of the world again. A nice, neat little Rags-to-Riches ride. It’s got its bizarre moments – I’m thinking back to the scene where Ron and Veronica (?) hallucinate and go riding around on cartoon unicorns – but they are sprinkled in like raisins in a good raisin bread. You don’t get one in every bite, so you appreciate it when you do get one (what a horrible simile; I mean, who likes raisin bread? EW.). The story holds the film together, and the absurd bits add flavor. Not a great film, but a good one. It works. It meets commercial success.
So they make another one.
In this one, the co-star (and now, wife) gets promoted and Ron gets fired (again). He breaks up with her over it (again). He rounds up his crew and comes up with an all new way of doing the news (again). There’s a brawl in a public park with rival news crews (again. Granted, this bit is still funny, but only because of the sheer scope of actors they got to cameo in it). There is absolutely nothing new in the story, which is the first stroke of the hammer.
Then, the absurdist moments that added flavor and texture to the first film are the backbone of this film, which is to say that the film moves from one nonsensical moment to the next without giving the audience time to catch its breath or figure out how (or in many cases if) the events they just saw connect to the whole. Spoiler alert: they don’t. Ron racially and sexually harasses the new black lady boss? Nothing comes of it. She gets mad and the story goes on. Ron and his friends forget who’s driving the car and wreck it on the way across country? Yep, next scene, there they are at work, no further mention of the car accident, no ill effects for any of the characters. Ron loses his sight in a freak ice-skating accident (no, he didn’t put his eye out, he’s just magically blind now) and, while blind and in exile, rescues and raises a shark to maturity. Do you think the shark ends up saving his life or playing any role in the story? Perhaps saving him from a rampaging murderous squid-demon? Spoiler Alert: it doesn’t.
Anyway, we watched this travesty of a film and then looked at each other and sighed a mutual disappointed sigh. I honestly wonder if the film was made, not as a money-making venture (though it certainly made money, apparently it’s pulled in over $110 million now, per Forbes, which is significantly more than the original), but as a sociological experiment. The premise of this experiment would be: How Bad Can We Make This Movie And Still Have People Come To See It?
The story writing is atrocious. The character development and growth is nonexistent. The humor is tepid. (The funniest moment in the film, the cameo-laden park brawl, is freeze-dried and repackaged from the first with fancier celebrities — how they got Will Smith in there is beyond me.) There’s a bit in there that’s almost clever wherein the film lampoons 24-hour news networks, but it’s over before it gets rolling. It is, in short, a terrible movie on virtually every level that movies should be concerned with.
And it still made money. Like, a lot of money.
I am of two minds about this.
First of all, Hollywood doesn’t give a steaming sharknado about its audience’s intelligence. They will make what sells, which means pander to MSBL and make a movie we already recognize and don’t, DON’T, push the boundaries. (How many Fast & Furious movies are there now? Eighteen, right? And aren’t we on Saw Forty-Seven?)
The second mind, however, is hopeful.
Because if a pile of fetid donkey turds like Anchorman 2 can be commercially successful, then maybe there’s hope for a schlub like me.