TBT – Clueless (1995)

anniversary, Jane Austen, Paul Rudd, review, TBT, teen movie
If you’ve been around these parts before, you may be aware that I’m not the biggest fan of Jane Austen. I know, I know. It’s not the kind of thing book nerds tend to admit to. I did two literature degrees that focused on Romanticism and had to suffer the sneers of my professors and fellow students whenever Austen appeared on my reading list. Turns out nobody trusts a book lover who hates the Queen of chick lit. But, frankly my dears, I don’t give a shit. Austen is a paint-by-numbers kind of writer so once you’ve read one novel you’ve read them all. However, I’m a pretty big fan of the attempts by other media to adapt her novels into something people can genuinely enjoy. Of course, the pinnacle of these attempts is still one of the best teen movie of all fucking time.

Clueless is celebrating it’s 20thanniversary this week. With the unfortunate 90s fashion revival recently, it has become a fairly trendy piece of Hollywood history which is something that would usually fill me with annoyance. As a bitter and cynical 27 year old, I don’t really like it when the younger generations start taking something I love as their own. They’re sacred. However, Cluelessis one of those films that I’ve been forcing my friends to watch for years. It’s amazing. Everyone should watch and enjoy it… despite the fact it’s based on a Jane Austen novel.
Emmais my father’s favourite Jane Austen novel. I found this out during an argument with my friend during which I hypothesised that Northanger Abbey is the only Austen novel worth reading. I realise this is a strange fact to include but it’s something that always makes me want to be nicer about it. Although no amount of paternal love can convince me that Emma is anything more than Sex and the Cityfor a 19thcentury audience. Of course, this does make it the perfect basis for an outrageous, 90s teen movie.
Clueless stars Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz, a high school student with a wardrobe that made every teenage girl in the 90s sick with jealousy and the desperate need to solve people’s problems. Cher is the stereotypical California rich girl but with something deeper underneath. She is incredibly self-absorbed but shows just enough awareness to those around her that you can’t hate her. Silverstone does a great job of portraying the character wholeheartedly that you get the joke but there is just enough irony there that you understand Cher is more than she seems.
Cher and her friend Dionne are high school students who are treading the murky waters of romance and popularity. Cher, who is more than happy to set up her teachers to improve her grades, has a tough time finding love for herself. So instead she focuses on a seemingly hopeless case, new girl Tai (Britanny Murphy). Cher moulds Tai into a carbon copy of herself because she really cares. She just doesn’t know how best to help this clueless young woman.

The narrative is fairly uninspiring in terms of originality: I mean it’s not like those who haven’t read the book won’t be able to see how things will end. However, it has fun with itself. It pokes fun at the section of society it portrays and, in its own way, the traditions of teen movies. Cluelessis a funny, silly and fresh take on a classic novel. Able to forgo the typical britches and bonnets style interpretation, it becomes a film that is both a successful adaptation of Emmaand a successful teen movie in its own right. It introduced me to the wonder that is Paul Rudd and I will happily watch this film again and again… and I will always be jealous of Cher’s computerised wardrobe. 

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

comedy, Kristen Wiig, news, Paul Rudd, review, satire, Steve Carell, Will Ferrell

If there is one thing you can say about Anchorman 2 it’s that it has definitely utilised its marketing team. For the past few months (though it feels like years) we have seen Will Ferrell dressed as Ron Burgundy on anything with a captive audience. Not that I’m really complaining. I utterly adore the first Anchorman film and, along with Zoolander, will watch it whenever I need an instant boost. That said, ever since the sequel was announced, I found myself unsure whether it was necessary. Anchormanwas a complete film and I just couldn’t see that there was any need to bring back the characters to continue their story. However, a friend and I found ourselves having only had about four hours sleep on New Year’s Day and needing to find an activity that took place in a dark room and didn’t involve interacting with other people. It seemed like destiny was calling.

Anchorman 2picks up several years after the events of the first film when Ron and Veronica (Christina Applegate), in the midst of domestic and professional bliss, are pushed into turmoil when Veronica is offered a promotion whilst Ron is fired. The relationship quickly falls apart and Ron must restart his life with the newfound knowledge that he is not at all capable of performing the role that he was born to have. Thankfully, Ron is quickly lifted out of obscurity thanks to the birth of rolling news so he reassembles his loyal news team and the group make their way to New York to reclaim their top-spot. All whilst Ron attempts to repair his fractured relationship with Veronica and his estranged six-year-old son Walter.

Of course it will prove difficult as our favourite newsreader is just as pompous and self-centred as he always was. The film soars when Ferrell is on screen and it is especially wonderful to see his failed attempts to face off with his formidable new rival, Jack Lime (James Marsden). Ron Burgundy is on top form when he is unrestrained and downright wacky. The moments when he is in the newsroom doing what he does best are a joy to watch.
On the other hand, there are the times when the pace slows a little: most notably the moment when Ron finds himself doing some soul-searching whilst living alone in a lighthouse. This scene echoes the “milk was a bad choice” meltdown scenes from the first but ramps up the comedy thanks to an orphaned shark. Although this segment is also littered with joyous moments there is an ever present sense that it goes on just that little bit too long. The slicker and more on point first half is pushed aside for this bizarre intermission which, other than a few brief titters, does nothing but contribute to the bloated feeling that bogs down the almost 2 hour long film.
Nevertheless, you can tell that Ferrell, and indeed the entire cast, are happy to be back playing these characters and that really helps the film move along. It’s not just a desperate attempt to make money but a chance to revisit old friends. The characters may not be entirely as we remember them but once the story gets going everything starts to feel comfortingly familiar. (Even if the make-up job needed to hide how much older Will Ferrell has got is slightly off putting and gross in close-up.)
One of the biggest stars to come out of the first film was, without a doubt, Steve Carell as the dim-witted Brick. Offering up hilarious visual gags and numerous quotable lines, Brick was the only character memorable enough to share the limelight with Ron Burgundy. This time, in a great show of self-awareness and common sense, the writers have placed Brick on centre stage with an entire subplot to play with. He is introduced to the world of dating once he meets fellow GNN employee Chani (played by Kristen Wiig). Although funny, there are moments when this feels a little bit like overindulgence and clutching at straws. Instead of just being full of zany sound bites, there are uncomfortable moments when the jokes possibly fall onto the wrong side of risqué. Although, attempting to start 2014 off with a ‘glass half full’ attitude, I intend to remember these moments as acceptable jokes instead of just Hollywood making fun of mental disability.
The thing that made Anchorman so amusing when it came out was that it was comedy for comedy’s sake: it was an entire film of Will Ferrell and co. being silly and outrageous because it was funny. Anchorman 2, perhaps in an attempt to show that the concept has grown enough to justify a sequel, takes its first pensive steps into the world of satire and, for the most part, it just about pays off. In between the familiar moments of Ron shouting and Brick being stupid, we sit back and watch as our hero climbs the journalistic ladder by creating a fresh news format by providing his audience with stories they want instead of the ones they need to hear. Filling his initial graveyard slot with fluff pieces and feel-good tales, Ron quickly becomes a ratings winner. Ferrell and co-writer Adam McKay’s attempt to have their say in regards to media moguls, like Rupert Murdoch, isn’t exactly subtle in its approach but it is possible to glimpse some sort of message within all the other noise.

For Anchorman 2 is certainly a loud film: Ferrell and McKay decided to build upon the first film by reusing and revisiting several of the jokes. The most obvious and most desperate is the big news team fight which builds on the original by throwing an insane amount of cameos into the mix along with a minotaur, a ray gun and the ghost of Stonewall Jackson. It is not that this scene isn’t funny but it just feels a little bit stale thanks to the underlying sense of familiarity. You can’t get away from the ‘been there done that’ idea no matter how many shots of Kanye, Liam Neeson and Marion Cotillard you include. Although, despite this tired idea, it does say something about the strength of the Anchorman franchise that the jumping the shark moment comes so far into the running time.

Anchorman 2is by no means as funny as the original but there are still a lot of the usual funny moments. Ferrell is a naturally funny performer and Ron Burgundy’s narcissism and lack of social awareness provides an infinite number of humours opportunities.  Admittedly, there are some that just don’t quite make it to their full potential and a lot of the jokes are stretched until they are thin enough to see through. However, the fact remains that there are plenty of real laughs to be found and, despite several potentially racist/misogynistic sequences, everything is played out to be appalling in just the right way. It is certainly not the most inspiring or well-crafted comedy of all time but Anchorman 2 has at least remembered to stay fairly classy. And if you disagree, I’ve got Jack Johnson and Tom O’Leary waiting for ya, right here.