One of the joys of the original Anchorman was seeing Will Ferrell wrangle the best comedic talent in the business into one absurdist fable. Not only was the core team one of funniest of ensembles of all time, but the movie was littered with cameos. And they worked — the news anchor rumble is sublime comedy cinema.
Judging from casting reports arriving from the set of the long-awaited sequel Anchorman 2, Ferrell may have been able to work his contacts yet again to fill the follow-up with an all-star cameo cast. Is there some sort of Hollywood Linkedin that makes this all possible?
The latest addition to Anchorman 2 is one of Ferrell's former costars, but not one of the overtly funny ones — adding charm to her inclusion. Who is it?
Possible spoiler of Anchorman 2 coming at you.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Nicole Kidman has shot a cameo for Anchorman: The Legend Continues, reuniting with Ferrell, her Bewitched costar, for a secret role. There's also no word if she'll be wearing her fake nose from The Hours for an arbitrary reason.
RELATED: Is 'Anchorman 2' a 'Morning Glory' Sequel?
Along with Kidman, Harrison Ford has also filmed a brief role for the sequel, and anchorman deathwatch combatant Vince Vaughn is rumored to be returning as well. As was the case with Anchorman, there may even be cameos the Internet isn't able to hunt down before the movie hits theaters December 20, 2013 (implausible, but possible). With so much star power being primed for the sequel, Ferrell and his Anchorman director Adam McKay make a gamble. An array of cameos worked for the first movie, which had a cool opening in theaters before catching on as a cult hit. People discovered the movie, and in turn, the random actor appearances that flurry the film. Replicating the recipe for Anchorman 2, and with bigger stars, is tricky. There's an event horizon for the tactic — one too many cameos and suddenly, the movie is limping with a crutch.
The cameo is the trickiest gag to pull off. The goal of a celebrity's inclusion into the fictional world is essentially to pull the viewer out of the movie. A famous face walk-on raises awareness that what you're watching is completely fake and that recognizable people are in on the joke. A well-timed cameo can be hilarious — "Oh my gosh, they got that guy!" They can also be… less effective. While basketball star Patrick Ewing showing up as an Angel in The Exorcist III was likely meant to pull the rug from under us, adding a mind-bending element to the movie, it plays as goofy. The same fumbling can occur in comedy with significantly less laughter.
Ewing's The Exorcist III appearances may have been palatable (emphasis on "may") had it not been for a clutter of other cameos around it, including Samuel L. Jackson, Larry King, and Fabio. It entered gimmick territory. That works for some movies: it was a selling point for 1956's Around the World in Eighty Days (Frank Sinatra! Peter Lorre! Cesar Romero!), and became a point of world building for Robert Altman's showbiz-driven The Player and political comedy Dave. Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich took the "realism" aspect to the next level with: The movie required cameos just to make it believable that John Malkovich felt like a real character. Seeing Brad Pitt vouch for the thespian and Charlie Sheen appear as an old friend added gravity to the drama.
Inversely, cameos don't have to make sense to work. Anchorman is a prime example, along with every Saturday Night Live movie ever made, and another non sequiter classic, Zoolander. But these movies weren't building off the success of a similarly patterned predecessors. The "lighting doesn't strike twice" fear of Anchorman comes from 10 years worth of investment on the parts of fans. Anchorman 2 requires cameos — it's a defining part of the original — but risks having too many, being too random, feeing disingenuous to the frat house feel of the first movie.
If there is any franchise that gives us blind hope for Anchorman 2's delicate use of cameos, it's the Muppet movies. Jim Henson and his crack team of filmmakers worked magic with big name talent, their appearances always complimenting the Muppets rather than stealing the spotlight. Rounding up Steve Martin, Bob Hope, James Coburn, Madeline Kahn, and Orson Welles could be a lame attempt at earning cred, but by lowering their status (the celebs always played second fiddle to the puppet stars), it lampooned what we knew about them. Anchorman 2 has the heightened world to play like the Muppets. If you're going to put Kidman in your movie, push her further than Hollywood has allowed her to go.
Maybe bringing back The Hours nose isn't a bad idea.
So how many cameos is too many cameos? What cameos work and which ones fall flat? Name the best and worst in the comments.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Troubled by unfortunate event after unfortunate event The Watch sidesteps faux pas to come out on top as a consistently funny sci-fi comedy that doesn't let its high concept tangle up a bevy of one-liners. The script penned by Jared Stern Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg assumes you've seen a few movies before entering the theater (mainly any sci-fi movie made in the 1980s). "Summer movie logic" is the foundation for The Watch's ridiculous plot which finds four adult nincompoops teaming up to form a Neighborhood Watch trying to solve the murder of a local Costco employee and eventually pursuing a killer extraterrestrial. Instead of making sense of it all The Watch wisely focuses on its four leads: Ben Stiller Vince Vaughn Jonah Hill and The IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade — a quartet whose bro banter goes a long way in spicing up the dust-covered material. There's nothing revelatory to be found in The Watch but the cast's knack for improv a poetry of the profane makes the adventure worth…viewing.
Director Akiva Schaffer (Hot Rod) establishes his two-dimensional characters quickly and bluntly smashing together broad personality types like a Hadron Collider of cinematic comedy. Stiller's Evan is a micromanaging do-gooder who can't find time for his wife; Hill's Franklin is a mildly disturbed weapons enthusiast yearning to join the police; Ayoade is the quaint weirdo who joins the Watch to fill the void left by his divorce; Vince Vaughn is Vince Vaughn: a loud crass gent looking for a bit of male bonding. The ragtag team assembles to fight crime but they spend most of their time drinking beers in a minivan — an affair they dub "stakeouts." A perfect opportunity for banter.
For a movie about enforcing the law and alien invasions there's a surprising lack of action in The Watch. Long stretches of the film see the central players yapping back and forth about everything: Russian nesting dolls peeing in cans or the similar viscosities of alien goo and human excrement. Charisma goes a long way and Vaughn does much of the heavy lifting making up for lost time out of the spotlight (he's been virtually nonexistent since 2005's Wedding Crashers). The man spits out jokes like no other — the rest of the cast barely keeps up. Ayoade balances out Vaughn's bombardment with a tempered timed delivery that's uniquely British and rarely found on the American big screen. Even when nothing's happening in The Watch it's rarely boring.
The Watch is at its best when it goes a step further mixing the group in with outsiders and throwing them off their rhythm. Billy Crudup cuts loose as a creepy neighbor and its delightfully weird while the always-impressive Rosemarie DeWitt as Evan's wife Abby brings unexpected warmth to the couple's relationship. Sadly The Watch mishandles its greatest asset: the aliens. The film never finds a pitch perfect blend of comedy and science fiction (Ghostbusters or Galaxy Quest this is not); a few scenes where the two come together hint at the best possible scenario but more often than not The Watch avoids its sci-fi roots. A moment in which the guys haul a dead alien back to their man cave plays like an E.T.-inspired version of The Hangover credits. It's lewd and ridiculous but the rest of the film struggles to maintain that energy.
Stiller Vaughn Hill and Ayoade have all proved themselves able funnymen capable of taking weak and tired material up a notch which they're forced to do in every moment of The Watch. Schaffer can handle his talent but his direction isn't adding anything to the mix. By the third slow-motion-set-to-gangster-rap scene The Lonely Island member's obsession with non-cool-coolness is officially just an attempt at being cool (which is not all that funny). The Watch has a greater opportunity than most comedy blockbusters to go absolutely bonkers: it's rated R. But instead of taking its twist and running with it the movie plays it safe. In this case safe is non-stop jokes about the many facets of human reproduction.