Simply doesn't measure up to the legendary stature of its predecessor.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
It’s been nearly a decade since Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy introduced Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay’s (then a newcomer) absurdist brand of humor to the masses, a brand of humor that earned the film the biggest cult following for a comedy since perhaps Caddyshack and lived on in McKay’s subsequent (mildly less successful) films Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Step Brothers, and The Other Guys (all starring Ferrell). In Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, McKay and his now-way-more-famous cast return with a bigger, broader, less memorable chapter in Burgundy’s story. The laughs still hit hard (I was bowled over quite frequently) and the wonderful cast is as sharp and witty as ever, but multiple, needlessly inflated, disposable plotlines drag the film down, and the novelty of McKay’s unfettered randomness has all but worn off in the last ten years.
It’s 1980, and happily married newscasters Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate, as beautiful and quick as ever) arrive at an impasse when Veronica beats Ron out for a coveted position at the news station and their boss (Harrison Ford) rips Ron’s job away (in Ford’s signature callous growl). Brimming with jealous rage, Ron leaves his wife and son (one of the worst child actors I’ve seen this year) and tracks down his old news crew to start a new career path at GNN, a news network in New York, where they help to pioneer a revolutionary concept called “24-hour news” (yuck yuck).
Returning are Steve Carrell as weatherman Brick Tamland, an extreme representation of McKay’s affinity for random dialog; Paul Rudd as reporter Brian Fantana, the embodiment of faux, cologne-collector machismo; and David Koechner as sportscaster Champ Kind, an ambiguously rape-y pervert with a hilariously uncomfortable affection for Ron (long, dick-to-dick hugs). Ron and his brigade are met with fierce hostility in New York, dished out by rival hot-shot anchor Jack Lime (James Marsden, surprisingly very funny) and their alpha-female station manager (Meagan Good). With everything stacked against him (including a miserable 2am time slot), Ron stands stubbornly determined to out-career Veronica, and finds his path to success in the form of the trashy, nothing-news we’re now oh-so familiar with in 2013 (in a stroke of “brilliance”, Ron reports on a car chase and sticks with the pursuit until the perp is caught, earning him sky-high ratings).
The satire is half-baked, laid on thick, and isn’t handled with nearly the deftness of the small, zingy, hyperbolic moments Anchorman is adored for. Narratively, the movie is a mess, with a tangle of plots and sub-plots that are so conventional and uninteresting that they bog down the film’s free-flowing, improv-is-king spirit. Veronica finds a new man (Greg Kinnear); Ron’s career focus has made him an absentee father; Brick’s found a love interest (Kristen Wiig, who merely mimics Carrell’s character, disappointingly); Ron’s success gets to his head and shuns his friends; etc. It all feels too conventional and schematic, and McKay spends an inordinate amount of time fleshing these story lines out, when all we really want to see are the gags. The crowded narrative feels restrictive, barring the talent from letting loose as much as they want to.
The good news is (yes, I said it!), the funnies are as tangential, out-of-left-field, and irreverent as the first film’s, if not more. You won’t find many über-repeatable one-liners here, but there are some scenes that absolutely kill. In perhaps the most interesting narrative thread in the film (really), Ron and his family befriend a shark named Doby and sing a 2-minute-long tribute musical number in his honor that had me rumbling so hard my throat was on fire (no one else in the theater found it as found it as funny, but hey…different strokes). McKay’s sense of timing is excellent; in one scene, Ron and his team begin laughing uproariously at a throwaway joke, and then McKay awkwardly cuts–right in the middle of their guffawing–to them standing in utter silence. Again, it’s an unquotable moment, but it’s funny as hell.
McKay takes the most bizarre, out-there scene from the first film–the incredible news anchor gang fight–and recycles it here (with the expected parade of super-celeb cameos). What’s fascinating is, now that we’re so familiarized with McKay’s comedic style, the scene feels safe, redundant, unsurprising, and dull, though it still has baseline entertainment value. I wouldn’t say Anchorman 2 is an unnecessary sequel–it’s still a lot of fun to watch these guys flex their comedic muscles–but it simply doesn’t measure up to the legendary (yes…I said it!) stature of its predecessor. Unfortunately, if this sequel is an indication of a downward trend in quality for the franchise, the forecast for Ron Burgundy’s future (okay, now I’m just being stupid) looks pretty cloudy (sorry).