Are we laughing at Ron Burgundy or laughing with him?
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (15A) finds TV newscaster and all-round sexist moron Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) in the 1980s, fired from his job and divorced from his wife Veronica (Christina Applegate), who has prospered in Ron’s absence to become the first female newscaster in network history.
Ron, meanwhile, is reduced to a slobbering wreck, working as a PA at San Diego’s Seaworld. With the advent of the concept of a 24-hour rolling news cycle, however, Ron is recruited by a new network desperate to fill the graveyard shift. And so Ron puts his old news team back together — Champ (David Koechner), Fantana (Paul Rudd) and Brick (Steve Carell) — and sets out to conquer the world of broadcasting again.
Directed by Adam McKay, and co-written by Ferrell and McKay, the movie tries to have it both ways: Ron Burgundy is a hapless chump who invites us to sympathise with him on the basis that he is burdened, through no fault of his own, by Olympic-standard stupidity, but Ferrell’s funniest lines are of the boorish, sexist variety that Ron could very easily keep to himself if he were so inclined. If you can overlook the uneven tone, however, the outrageously over-the-top performances generate plenty of laughs, especially when Burgundy and his team ‘revolutionise’ news broadcasting with their radical philosophy of giving the audience not what it needs to hear, but what it likes to hear. Ferrell’s variation on a Broadcast News-style satire of contemporary media doesn’t jibe very well with the broad, slapstick comedy of his Ron Burgundy parody, and we’re left wondering which parts of the movie we’re supposed to laugh off and which to take seriously, if any. Ultimately, fans of the first Anchorman movie will find much to enjoy here, but Ferrell’s battering-ram approach to humour isn’t likely to win him any new fans.
Walking With Dinosaurs 3D (PG) is a full-length drama spin-off from the BBC TV series of the same name that follows Patchi (voiced by Justin Long), one of a Pachyrhinosaurus herd, as he grows up in Alaska some 70 million years ago. The late Cretaceous period is particularly difficult time to be a young and lumbering herbivore, especially given the presence in North America of the Gorgosaurus, a larger predator than Tyrannosaurus Rex, and the annual migration south becomes an epic survival trek in which Patchi, his big brother Scowler (Skyler Stone) and their friend Juniper (Tiya Sicar) must bond together to defeat the odds. Directed by Barry Cook and Neil Nightingale, Walking With Dinosaurs is a visually arresting movie with a number of jaw-droppingly spectacular sequences featuring dinosaurs big and small. Unfortunately, so successful are these images of ancient creatures brought to life that the filmmakers’ strident efforts to connect with a young audience come across as crude. Having the characters converse in contemporary American colloquialisms (“Dude!” “Awesome!” etc.) rather ruins the illusion. Most annoyingly, the animation does not extend to lip-synching the characters and their words. If you’re prepared to overlook those kind of details the visual impact of these massive beasts in their natural world is very impressive indeed.
Croissant baker and aspiring actor Pietro (Elio Germano) moves to Rome and finds himself an apartment, only to discover that his new home is the setting for A Magnificent Haunting (12A). ‘Setting’ is the operative word: the ghosts are a troupe of actors who died whilst hiding from the Nazi occupiers during WWII, and the lines between fiction and reality quickly becomes blurred as the ghosts coach Pietro in advance of his auditions, while he sets out to discover the identity of the traitor who betrayed his unlikely friends. Writer-director Ferzan Ozpetek invests his story with a whimsical sense of humour, much of it expertly carried by Elio Germano as the hapless, lovelorn Pietro struggles to come to terms with his ability to interact with the paranormal world. The crucial line, however, is delivered by one of the ghosts when she declares that, “It’s not a comedy, it’s the tragedy of our lives.” A Magnificent Haunting is as funny and poignant as it is aptly named.
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