Why I'm Ecstatic that 'The Hobbit' Crushed 'Anchorman 2' This Weekend
I want to extend my sincerest condolences to anyone who was excited for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. It was a pretty terrible sequel to a legitimately funny Will Ferrell movie, and it showed in its opening weekend box office numbers. Although Anchorman 2 debuted this weekend after being hilariously publicized on network television and elsewhere, it could not beat The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. While The Hobbit maintained its top spot in box office sales for the second week in a row, Anchorman 2 spent its opening weekend in the #2 spot. Both are sequels, but lest you think they are equal, I've compiled an exhaustive list of reasons The Hobbit deserves its popularity, and Anchorman 2 deserves to be forgotten.
Anchorman 2 Has More Cringe-Worthy Lady Jokes
I've already made it clear that I don't like Tauriel's love story, so this is essentially a choice between two bad alternatives, like the choice between sitting next to a crying baby or a barking dog on a 4 a.m. holiday flight. However, even though Tauriel's love story ruins the tone of Tolkien's work, at least her character is allowed to kill some orcs. So, at least the only female character in The Hobbit has some action-hero abilities, even if most of her dialog revolves around the ridiculous love triangle Peter Jackson created.
However, I think that, on this front, Anchorman 2 does worse. I know many people will disagree with me on this front, but I don't think Anchorman 2 was really the feminist film that some are calling it. Yes, Ron Burgundy does encounter an empowered African American woman who doesn't put up with his tomfoolery, which is fantastic. Veronica also shows that she is ambitious, caring, and generally less of a foil than in the last movie, bringing the count of strong female characters up to two. But, lest we give Will Ferrell too much credit, let's all remember one major purpose of both Linda Jackson and Veronica Corningstone in the film: they are Ron Burgundy's love interests. Both of these characters, on their own, could easily make an interesting film about women in news, without putting up with the ass-backwards Ron Burgundy. Yet here they are, stuck in the love triangle, where Linda has to pursue Ron, and Veronica has to take him back.
The Hobbit Has Cute Cameos, while Anchorman has a Clumsy Combat Scene
We were all very excited about Benedict Cumberbatch joining The Hobbit as Smaug, and he didn't disappoint. His dragon voice is scary and sexy in a way that only Benedict (and Smaug) can pull off. Also, Stephen Fry is a deliciously corrupt Master of Laketown, and despite his Stephen Fry-ness, he manages to fit perfectly into Middle Earth. While The Hobbit does not have many women, it does have a large cast of male dwarves, men and elves, which it manages to balance perfectly.
The cameos in Anchorman 2 were not as deftly handled. If you've seen the film, you will remember that awkward battle scene between every news network (and the History Channel), which lasted far too long and accomplished nothing. Will Ferrell did not need to fight Kanye West and a minotaur, and cutting this scene might have made the film short enough to be bearable.
Anchorman 2 was Half-Written by Will Ferrell, and The Hobbit was mostly Tolkien
After I left Anchorman, one of my movie-going companions said "I heard Will Ferrell wrote half the script. Can you guess which half?" While director Adam McCay and Ferrell did write the script together, I doubt they each wrote half. Yet, the very end of the film jumps the shark multiple times, making it the plot equivalent to Will Ferrell's inability to control the volume of his voice. I also wonder who wrote the nuanced jokes such as Brick's hilarious discussion of hubris, and who put in the supposedly "tongue-in-cheek" racist and ableist jokes. Whomever is responsible for these individual moments, they don't fit well into into one sequel.
The Hobbit, however, finally had a plot that was well-paced, action-packed, and mostly from the book. Peter Jackson spent considerably less time setting up this installment of the 300-page children's book, making it feel like the second part of a trilogy. Also, the lack of sweeping vista shots in The Desolation of Smaug helped to keep the plot moving, where the crazy New Zealand landscapes in the first movie seemed to have a mind of their own.
I am truly glad that Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues opened at the second spot in the box office, because it is a second-rate comedy, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is not perfect, but it accomplishes the goals of a sequel. Whatever your feelings on Bilbo v. Burgundy, however, we can all agree that Saving Mr. Banks deserves more love that it's getting in the #5 spot. Come on, American moviegoers, who doesn't love Mary Poppins?