August 1, 2014

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Anchorman 2 - Making Fun of Television News

The long awaited movie, "Anchorman 2", is out in theaters, but is it a hit or a miss, and should you spend your money to see the sequel?

This is my personal blog, it is not a news-story nor anyone else's opinion, not the station, my family, nobody but me.

After months of enduring the clever car commercials that feature Ron Burgundy, clueless news reader and anchorman, the sequel movie has arrived in theaters this holiday season.  Based upon the success of the first Will Farrell vehicle, we were expecting another hit that lampooned the TV news industry.

This isn't the first time that television has been taken on.  Every few years, there's another parody movie released, and I'm always asked, "Have you seen it? What did you think? Wasn't it funny? Or, could that really happen?"

If you look back, there's been a long run of these movies.... Anchorman, The Weatherman, The Running Man, Broadcast News, Network, or even the raucous Kentucky Fried Movie, and Amazon Women on the Moon.  Some have been more brilliant satire than others.  Some have been slapstick of the lowest kind.

I am always surprised when someone asks me if I have seen the latest movie, like I am expected to turn to the film industry for relaxation and watch something drawn from my own experience. Why would I want to pay someone to tell me what's wrong with my industry or make fun of it?

Now, if you can't laugh at yourself, then you're taking yourself far too seriously. Anchorman 1 made me laugh in spots.  It was clever, and I didn't see some of it coming.  It was interesting to see how they turned the clock back and recreated a fictional account of reading the news in San Diego in the 1970s.  And ultimately, it was silly.

But Anchorman 2 tells the fictious story of the rise of 24 hour a day cable news networks. And they are spot on with the criticism, the questions, the uncertainty and the excesses of that new medium. The only thing they didn't do was paint the various networks in political excess, but I guess that's a fairly recent development and may be held for a third movie, if one is made.  I doubt it, based upon how un-funny #2 is.

First let me say how good I think Steve Carrell is as a comedic actor. His role in "The Office" was based upon the English TV hit, and I think he did well by it, but it's not my cup of tea. For the second time, he plays a man so inept at his job that he would never be allowed to continue. I don't find that funny. It is irritating and pathetic.  So other than one funny green scene that made it into the trailers, he ads nothing to the film. (And I have seen Steve Carrell be funnier on the History Channel's Pawn Stars guest appearance!)

 But #2 telegraphs it's jokes, and until the next to the last scene, I was bored.  In fact, my date almost got up and left after the first 15 minutes. (That hasn't happened since the awful "Not Another Superhero Movie" bombed.)  Had I not wanted to see the movie, so as not to be left out, I would have suggested that we leave.  I was amazed at what the audience members were finding funny. (And I heard one woman seated behind me say, quote , "How can she be 22 months pregnant," not getting the joke.)  By the way, I found Kristen Wigg's character insultingly stupid and bland.

I will say that I enjoyed seeing all the former SNL stars drop in for a cameo, and I was watching to see how long and how many lines each would be given.  I always enjoyed those rubble scenes at the end of a farce, so I can't say that I didn't chuckle at some of the appearances.

But in my view, the real star is the equipment,, the 80s styles, the wardrobe, and the locations, which are taken from the late 70s and 80s very faithfully.  My wife recognized several pieces of equipment that she worked with in broadcast television in the 80s, as did I. The phone was right, the colors were right, the decor  were right.  And I'd like to think that they found an unused TV studio somewhere to remodel into the broadcast sets that are shown.  That's the real value of the picture for me.  A trip down memory lane.

So, when co-workers and others began quoting lines from this sequel and threatening to ruin it for me, I figured I had to shell out my $4 for a ticket.  But I feel like I wasted my money. Now, no one can ruin it for me.  The writers did it themselves.

While the movie will probably make a profit for the studio, I don't think it will be a big hit. It's just not that funny.  And they manage to offend or insult almost every minority group equally.... except for the "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" scene, that goes on far too long and was wisely cut before becoming a self-fulfilling joke.  I was uncomfortable with the lengths they went for a laugh, whether at the dinning table, on the TV set, in a fast food restaurant or chasing through the park. 

And that's what I think is wrong with this film. It doesn't know when to quit.  The jokes aren't fast enough and witty enough.  Not like "Network" and "Broadcast News", but more like "Dumb and Dumber".  You see them coming.

I make it a practice not to recommend or discuss movies that insult my profession. I let them bomb on their own.  So, please don't ask me what I thought of either Anchorman nor The Weatherman.  You won't like my answer.

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