So it was funny. Very funny. I can’t remember the last film I saw that had the entire audience cracking up so much and so often. If you see it, you will laugh, it’s as simple as that. But, as always, I’m not here to tell you what you already know through other bigger, better reviews and word of mouth, I’m here to share a few alternative insights and ponderings that might otherwise be unexplored by the conventional film review. So here it goes!
I’m sure that it was a funny film…but I’m not sure if it was a good film. There’s always that question of whether a funny film needs to be anything other than funny, much like whether a scary film needs to be scary? Surely the success criteria of a comedy film is the laughter, not the cinematic quality. And in terms of laughs, it scored pretty high. But there are some films which are designed to be art, some are simply trying to incite a reaction, and the word good is usually tied to the notion of artistic films because the criteria they are trying to fulfil is the ‘good’ criteria. So to that extent should we class films as good or bad, or as per the criteria they are going about to achieve? A comedy film is either funny or not funny, a scary film is either scary or not scary, an artistic film designed to be good filmmaking is either good filmmaking or bad filmmaking. Let’s consider an analogy to food. Sometimes the purpose of food is simply to be fuel whereas other times it’s to be tasty. Both of them are food, but to what extent can the term ‘good’ be used to classify them when they do different things?
Anchorman is a good comedy film, however it is not a good film by virtue of filmmaking conventions in terms of good pacing, structure and so forth. There is a tension inside me as to whether each film must be a good film fundamentally on filmmaking grounds before it can be good, even if it is successful in achieving the ends it intends. If we are chauvinistic about film quality then Anchorman 2 isn’t a good film, only a funny film. Whereas if we use good to designate success within its remit of intent, then Anchorman 2 is a good film because it succeeds at being funny. However, if we concede the filmmaking aspect, then a funny mobile phone clip of somebody falling over can be good on a success criteria definition of good…but this is to devalue filmmaking. So I’ll let you decide, do films need to be good in terms of filmmaking standards to be good or simply successful in what they intend to achieve. There are repercussions to both but I think the mobile phone clip example shows why I value films for filmmaking, as an end not a means to an end. What, you ask, is the point of this investigation? Well, I want to say that the original Anchorman is both funny and good as a film whereas Anchorman 2 is only funny but not a good film. That’s my long winded way of saying that one.
Steve Carell stole the show. His character, Brick Tamland needs his own movie, he completely upstaged Ron with his hilarious theatrics. I was also Reay impressed with Kristen Wiig and how she held her own as Brick’s female counterpart and love interest. It was risky business bringing in a love interest to mirror everybody’s favourite Weatherman but she played it well, nailing cute and ditzy well, not trying to compete with Brick, but complementing his well, therefore letting him dominate the screen as was needed for a character audiences have a huge affinity with. As the romantic (I use the word very loosely) element progressed, I do think feel that they pushed it a little too far, moving it from it from sweet to sexual needlessly. It’s a small thing, but I think it would’ve been more honest to Brick’s character and actually, a lot more gags could’ve been from it.
I get it, it’s Anchorman 2. The sequel to a modern classic. So there’s certain facets of the humour that fans expect. They expect Will Ferrell to be a certain way as Ron Burgundy, they expect melodrama and so forth. However, I feel there were too many elements which were simply Anchorman but the second time. Instead of being the realm of Anchorman and certain types of things occurring in line with the universe created, it was replications of the first film but a second time and to me, that’s a massive difference. Everyone loved the Sex Panther scene in the first film where Brian Fantana reveals his stash of colognes. So that scene was funny and told us a lot about the character, however, they did the exact same setup for the second film but with condoms instead of cologne. It wasn’t funny, it didn’t have the consequences of the first film where we see the effects of the cologne, rather, it sold itself short and was simply saying – hey look Brian has a stash of condoms too! Look, that’s funny, because he had cologne before. And for me that is the tragedy of this film, it got too self-referential. Especially towards the end, it’s like they went, quick, let’s make it more Anchormanesque and that shows a lack of confidence in this film and a fear of the shadow of the first. I don’t want to give it away, but a massive sequence towards the end sums up this entire issue, something so great from the original is revisited but executed really badly so that the only good aspect of it is the nod to the first film rather than it’s stand alone success.
What I did like about this film was the message, the bold statement about the way the News is told, the propaganda and Americanisation of journalism, the blurring lines between truth and fiction and the presentation of truth in a fictionalised way for ratings. I personally hate the news and it’s stranglehold it has over the planet dictating what people believe to be true, so maybe I’m already disposed to be keen on a film that presents this message. That aside, I think the film does a great job of building the message gradually across the length of the film so that it is gently put to the audience rather than in one heavy handed hit at the end. It’s also done in a carefully crafted way which puts the humour first even when it’s at it’s deepest so that in that way it doesn’t become preachy, but delivers a valuable and poignant message in line with the style of the film. I’m not sure if the first film had any such message, but this one clearly did and I loved it for it. The filmmakers used their massive global influence to send a pretty brave message to the masses. I like the balls to do that, when they completely didn’t need to. It was an extra dimension that shows responsible filmmaking and I applaud the maturity to deliver that message and in such a careful way in keeping with the format of the film, not tagging on a Scrubs style Voiceover and melancholy music at the end.
I hope my thoughts give you something different to the other reviews out there and make you ponder on some deeper issues. As always, these thoughts are based on an initial cinema viewing. Opinions change depending on context, time and viewing situations so I might well change my mind on some things the next time I see it, so don’t take my thoughts as anything more than thoughts, so go and make your own and disagree with me and even yourself over time. Either way, go and experience it for yourself.