You can tell Will Ferrell has a new movie coming out because he’s doing the darndest things.
On March 12 he played for ten Major League Baseball teams in five spring training games in one day. Since then he’s roasted Justin Bieber, walked red carpets at South By Southwest, dressed as a leprechaun with David Letterman, appeared in snack cake queen Little Debbie drag on The Tonight Show and traded barbs with Jon Stewart while wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with dozens of pictures of Zack Galifianakis.
He’s pulling out all the stops to make sure everyone knows Get Hard, his comedy about a rich man who hires a coach (Kevin Hart) to prep him for prison, opens this weekend.
A few years ago I landed in the middle of one of Ferrell’s outlandish publicity stunts.
In July 2012 he was stumping for The Campaign, a political satire co-starring Zack Galifianakis. The hot-and-steamy Toronto summer afternoon began with the actors riding down Yonge Street, throwing out campaign buttons to passers-by until they arrived at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Inside I hosted a press conference with them and Mayor Rob Ford. On stage actors posing as Mounties guarded the Stanley Cup as Ford, then most famous—and controversial—politician in Canada, gave the guys advice on how to campaign. Nothing was rehearsed and everyone was a bit nervous as I brought the three to dais.
Ferrell talked about what happened next on the Late Show with David Letterman.
“We step up to the mic. We’re supposed to say a few words, and I say, ‘How about a big round of applause for your mayor, Rob Ford.’ It was literally… not even a smattering of applause, just two people.”
“It was just so silent, that I actually had to comment on it. So I said, ‘Mr. Mayor, that’s a horrible ovation,’ and the press core burst out laughing. And he was just laughing. He didn’t care. Just sweaty.”
Ford was a good sport and played along. He gave them each a miniature Stanley Cup, pinned “Rob Ford for Mayor” buttons on their chests and handed out his famous business cards, fridge magnets and bumper stickers before imparting some sage advice.
“It’s very simple. Every person you meet hand out a magnet and business card and return people’s phone calls. Customer service is number one.” With a laugh he added, “and don’t talk to the Toronto Star,” the newspaper that had been dogging him of late.
It may not have been the smoothest promotional stunt of all time, but it certainly was a memorable one.
The next year Ferrell worked Ford into the promotion for Anchorman 2. By this time Ford’s scandal-ridden term in office, fuelled by admissions of drug use, had rocketed him into the international spotlight.
Ferrell, in character as ridiculous San Diego newscaster Ron Burgundy, came out in support of Ford’s re-election. “Ron doesn’t realize how much trouble Rob Ford is in,” said Ferrell. “He just thinks he’s a great guy. Gregarious. Fun. Life of the party. Ron’s advice would just be ‘keep doing what you’re doing, it’s obviously working.” He even wrote a campaign song to the tune of Loverboy’s Working for the Weekend.
As usual, Ford took it all in stride, tweeting, “I had to laugh at my friend Ron Burgundy & his take on my 2014 re-election campaign song.”
There’s been no mention of Rob Ford in the promotion for Get Hard, but if Ferrell ever makes The Campaign 2: The Re-Election perhaps he’ll give the former mayor a call.
Synopsis: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues opened this week bringing confident but thick news anchor Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) back to the big screen after a nine year absence. The first film made catchphrases like, “I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch,” and the names Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and Champion “Champ” Kind (David Koechner) household words. In celebration of the return of the team from San Diego’s KVWN Channel 4 the Reel Guys have a look back at the career of funnyman Will Ferrell.
Richard: Mark, I think Will Ferrell is one of the bravest comedic actors working today; someone willing to do anything for a laugh. Trouble is, I often don’t laugh. Anchorman is laugh-out-loud funny. Ditto Elf and Old School, but sometimes I feel he has to rein the manic energy in, do half as much and maybe be twice as funny. Having said that, the Shark Week jokes in Step Brothers really make me giggle.
Mark: Richard, I share your ambivalence toward Ferrell. He’s not my go-to guy for funny. Still, he’s done some great work. My favourite Will Ferrell movies are two indie films he’s starred in: Stranger Than Fiction and Everything Must Go. They’re the equivalent of Jim Carrey’s work in The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Maybe not huge crowd pleasers, but they show the true breadth of his talent.
RC: I agree. I think Stranger Than Fiction is worth a rental. It’s touching and funny, which for me is Ferrell’s sweet spot. A Night at the Roxbury is a silly comedy but Ferrell’s wide-eyed performance is the kind of thing I like from him. Outrageous, yes, but underneath the silly is a real guy. Sometimes I can’t see the real guy underneath his characters and those are his movies that don’t work for me. Except Zoolander. As fashion guru Mugatu he’s so strange he dares you not to laugh at him.
MB: Yes, he’s sometimes better in a supporting role in which his over-the-top zaniness doesn’t sink the whole picture. Mugatu for sure, but also the mattress salesman in The Internship or Franz in The Producers. But generally, I find his man-child jock character wearying. Which is why, I think, Anchorman is such a successful movie. It’s a Will Ferrell movie for people who don’t care for Will Ferrell movies. Did you enjoy the sequel, Richard?
RC: I did. I think there is a lot of life left in Ron Burgundy. It’s funny in an outrageous way. It’s a bit too long, (and don’t bother sitting through to the post credit scene unless you find the sight of Steve Carell eating cookies hilarious) but the buffoonery level is high in a season where serious drama seems to be the ticket.
In the last couple of weeks I have seen Ferrell, in character, sit in on some local newscasts and he fit right in. As long as there is media, egomaniac announcers and local news, there will be a place for Ron Burgundy.
MB: Yes, but let’s not forget he’s supported by a stellar cast of comic actors: Paul Rudd, Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Wiig. Even if Ferrell isn’t your cup of tea, it’s hard to believe this movie won’t work.
If someone on your list has a habit of saying, “I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly…” but already has all the scotch they can drink, why not get them the next best thing? A The Legend of Ron Burgundy 7-Inch Faux-Bronze Bust!
Enetrtainmentearth.com says: Ron Burgundy – he’s kind of a big deal. Proof: his many leather-bound books. More proof: this Anchorman The Legend of Ron Burgundy 7-Inch Faux-Bronze Bust! Featuring the legendary Ron Burgundy’s head sculpted in faux-bronze and sporting a look on his face that haunts with pure debonair class, this decorative bust is the type that belongs on the bookshelves of philosophers and within the personal library of the Maharaja. Lucky enough, this amazing bust is available for you as well, and you need not bring the wrath of the Maharaja down upon your head for the sin of coveting such an exquisite item. Measuring 7-inches tall, the faux-bronze bust of Ron Burgundy includes a name plate with the Anchorman’s full name: “Ronald Joseph Aaron Burgundy.”
It’s been ten years since we first met Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), a San Diego newscaster who claims he was put on earth to do two things, “have salon quality hair and read the news.” With his extreme news team—field reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner) and bizarro weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell)—he ruled the local airwaves.
This time around the stakes are much bigger. Relocated to New York City, Burgundy and company are set to change the face of news in a film that almost plays like a comedic version of “Network.” Almost… but not quite.
At the dawn of the 1980s Ron Burgundy’s best days seem to be behind him. His marriage implodes when his wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) becomes the first female national news host. He hits the bottle, stops combing his perfect hair and it looks like his career is over until he’s recruited to join the anchor team at the newly formed Global News Network, the first 24-hour news channel.
He takes the job, but first insists on reuniting his old team, Blues Brothers style. With Champ, Brick and Brian on board they prepare to take New York by storm, but first they have to out do and out perform hot shot anchor Jack Lime (James Marsden).
Cobbling together a newscast made up of car chases, cat videos and Fox News style patriotism they inadvertently give birth to a new style of news.
As their ratings rise, so do questions of journalistic ethics. And that’s the first hour. Beyond that the movie is so demented I don’t want to give away any more plot points.
“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” brings with it a fair amount of goodwill. People love the original and the audience I saw the new one with laughed at almost everything that came out of Ferrell’s mouth.
For the first hour. Then the movie’s faults begin to show.
The opening sixty minutes feel like a worthy, although not quite as quotable, revisiting of the first movie. There’s nothing as memorable as, “I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly…” but you’ll laugh, especially if you’re a fan of the original.
You’ll also laugh in the second hour, but it feels less like a film than a series of connected sketches. The plot veers around wildly, again delivering giggles, but in a rambling way that doesn’t feel like the first half. It tries hard to make a statement about early 1980s race relations and for a short while Ferrell channels his inner Howard Beale to comment on the erosion of the quality of news reporting.
Sounds more nuanced than it actually is. Despite the social commentary, this is still the kind of movie where Burgundy goes temporarily blind, hand feeds a baby shark and engages in hand-to-hand combat with rival news teams.
“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” is funny in an outrageous way. It’s a bit too long, (and don’t bother sitting through to the post credit scene unless you find the sight of Steve Carell eating cookies hilarious) but the buffoonery level is high in a season where serious drama seems to be the ticket.