It’s rare to see a sequel actually best its original film but by golly, Will Ferrell doesn’t disappoint with a follow-up to his wickedly funny and off-the-wall 2004 comedy, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy“.
Set in the 1980’s, Ron (Ferrell) and his wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are NYC co-anchors when their boss (Harrison Ford) fires Ron and keeps Veronica on as a full-time news anchor. Months later, dejected and working as a drunk host at San Diego’s Sea World, his agent, Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker) has great news. NYC is trying out a brand-new format on TV… a 24-hr news station called GNN (Global News Network) and they need Ron Burgundy and his crew back!
Well, quicker than you can say, “Assemble the team!”, Ron assembles his old team: Insane sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner) who had opened a fried chicken shack with, shall we say, questionable menu items, stalwart Brian Fantana who photographs kittens, and completely-without-a-clue Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) who they find giving an eulogy… at his own funeral!
Arriving at GNN, they discover the hero of the network and all-around egotistic network news anchor god, Jack Lime (James Marsden). Needless to say, Jack and Ron do not like each other and the schoolyard rivalry begins. Anxious to look good in front of everyone, Ron bets Jack that he and his team will have higher ratings in their 2am slot, or leave New York forever! The bet is sealed and Ron and his wacky team come up with a bold, if not altogether, crazy plan. Don’t deliver the boring news like everyone else, just say what’s on their minds, tell America how great they are, show puppies at play, list the 10 greatest vaginas on Earth, and have Brick’s weather report outside during a “windstorm” that isn’t really there.
The hat trick works and Ron’s TV ratings soar! He’s on top of the world and tries to reconcile with his estranged wife and 7-year-old son, Walter (Judah Nelson-very good). But Veronica has taken a lover who happens to be a psychiatrist named Gary (Greg Kinnear) who Ron is convinced can read his mind.
Meanwhile, Brick has fallen for a loopy co-worker at GNN named Chani (Kristen Wiig) who’s every bit as weird as he is. Their first date at a laundromat is oddly sentimental and really strange at the same time. Back at GNN, Ron is devastated about his wife and turns to the affections of his African-American boss, Linda (Meagan Good) and tries in vain to assimilate himself into her black family during a dinner party with hysterically cringing results. During all this, he’s asked to dump an important news story that would damage GNN’s reputation. Ron does it, but loses the respect of his team in doing so. And if that weren’t bad enough, Ron goes blind after an ice skating accident caused by a jealous Jack.
Alone and shacked up in a lighthouse, he’s rescued by Veronica, Walter, his dog Baxter, and baby great white shark named Dobie. I’m serious. You have to see this to believe it. But wait, it gets better. He gets his eyesight restored and goes back to work, only to make a critical choice: attend his son’s piano recital (“I wrote this piece for you, dad!”) or cover a huge news story that will be his career changer. Needless to say, he chooses his son’s piano recital…BUT!
The climatic ending that takes place in a park, a battle takes place with several news teams coming together for an all-out war to stop (or help) Ron! The star-studded cameos abound (I won’t give them away here, but they’re GREAT!) and the “war” is just plain lunacy.
This is one seriously funny movie “written” by Farrell and Adam McKay. I put ‘written’ in parentheses because I bet that half this movie was improved and not on any script. Knowing the ad-lib geniuses of the cast, the lines were changing with every take. Directed by Adam McKay, I haven’t LOL’d this much and this long at a movie in a very long time. The scenes were incredibly stupid and well set-up, the logic was illogical and nonsensical, the people were all insane and completely looney, and I loved every minute of it! This comedy comes from brilliant writing and the characters, not from same ol’ fart and lame poop jokes (Adam Sadler) or repetitious and boring sexual gags (Wayan Bros). Thank you, Will Ferrell!
HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940)
Newsroom comedies are hard to come by, but one of the very best is this glorious black and white screwball comedy by the great Howard Hawks. It’s SO good that it’s on the American Film Institutes list of “100 Years–100 Laughs”.
The great Cary Grant plays Walter Burns, a hard-boiled editor for “The Morning Post”, a fast-paced newspaper, that learns his ex-wife and former star reporter, Hildegard “Hildy” Johnson (Rosalind Russell), is about to marry a bland insurance man named Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy). And what worse yet, she’s going to settle down to a quiet life as a wife and mother! Not if he can help it!
Walter can’t stand the idea of his former ace reporter doing this, and is determined to sabotage her plans by enticing Hildy to cover just one last story: the upcoming execution of convicted murderer, Earl Williams (John Qualen).
No above playing nasty tricks, Walter does everything he can to keep Hildy from leaving town, including setting up her unsuspecting fiance so he gets arrested over and over again on trumped-up charges. He even kidnaps Hildy’s upcoming mother-in-law (Alma Kruger)! When the convict Williams escapes from the bumbling sheriff (Gene Lockhart) and practically falls into Hildy’s lap, the lure of the big scoop proves to be too much for her. Falling back on her old habits (and loving it!) she starts writing the story and hardly notices as Bruce realizes his marriage to her is hopeless and he returns home.
Walter and Hildy find out just in time to save Walter from being arrested again save him from the gallows. Afterwards, Walter offers to remarry Hildy, promising to take her on the honeymoon they never had in Niagara Falls. But there’s a great NEWS story on the way there, so….!
Lightning paced dialogue and direction, this movie zips by so fast you better be prepared to listen and listen quick to what everyone is saying. The performances of Grant and Russell are just perfect and their chemistry together is electric. They play off each other so well, it’s too bad they didn’t make any more films together. It’s fast, it’s funny, it’s a great movie to rent. Here’s a funny tidbit: Cary Grant at one point tells the Mayor, “The last man who said that to me was Archie Leach just a week before he cut his throat”. Archie (Archibald) Leach is Cary Grant’s real name!