Comedy sequels are really, really tricky to pull off. The trap a lot fall into is basically doing the same movie again (ref. Hangover 2). Also sequels separated by long gaps tend to come up short in quality. So Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, the nearly 10 years later sequel to Anchorman, has to circumnavigate both of those pitfalls. Happily, and surprisingly, it manages to do so.
Anchorman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is fired by the hardass Harken (Harrison Ford) and separated from his rising news broadcast star wife, Veronica (Christina Applegate). Quickly reduced to attempted suicide (but a very funny attempted suicide, really!) he’s enlisted producer Freddie (the versatile Dylan Baker) to join a 24 hour news network. For help Ron grabs his old co–workers, Champ (David Koechner), Brian (Paul Rudd) and the dim–witted Brick Tamland (Steve Carell). While butting heads with the head of the network, Linda (Meagan Good), and the cocky main anchor (James Marsden) Ron comes up with a plan to guarantee ratings: cover fluff stories like mind–numbing patriotism, stick weatherman Brick outside to report on conditions, and put car chases on air. Incredibly, it works, bringing him into the good graces of his boss (Josh Lawson) and driving Ron into a ratings war with his former love, Veronica.
Not everything in Anchorman 2 is completely original as a couple of the more memorable bits from the first are recreated: we see Brian open up a cabinet revealing his arsenal of seduction material, there is a bit of Jazz Flute skillfully played by Ron again, yet another newsman brawl happens, this time situated right at the climax. But there is enough of a distinct spin on these moments to differentiate them from before. The brawl has a new roster of celebrity cameos and the appearance of the actor in the role of the CBC broadcaster (with Marion Cotillard as the French Canadian aide!) is a big, hilarious moment. Even the surrealism in the newsman brawl is taken to a next level; there are magical beasts involved and at one point the freakin’ Ghost of Stonewall Jackson is sucking out people’s souls. It’s so insanely stupid, and the actor playing Stonewall is such a perfect choice, it’s downright inspired.
A lot of this movie often tosses realism aside for a gag making this even less tethered to reality that the first flick. Which is good because not many comedies do straight–up lunacy anymore, it’s all taking place in the slightly less funny “real word”. There aren’t many movies where the main character ends up bottle–feeding a baby shark on his journey to self–actualization but things like that make this film interesting.
The first film basically boiled down boys vs. girls clubhouse battle which worked great with the childish characters. This one has a bit more of a satirical bent. The pandering banality today in cable news turns out to have been founded by the gang of idiots from Anchorman which is actually fairly sharp satire. No wonder cable news is so bad, Ron Burgundy dreamed it up!
It’s amazing the movie manages to cram in a pretty smart plot since so much of it is cobbled together from the actors riffing on each other. The difference in between this and many of producer Judd Apatow’s improv heavy movies is that a lot of times those seem exactly what they are, comedic actors sitting around making up lines. Here, since the Anchorman crew are distinctly defined, the quips come from the characters and not the actors. Some riffs may go on a bit longish but usually director Adam McKay knows when to leave a gag at a high point.
The foursome slip into their roles again comfortably. Burgundy is the guy who is constantly assured of his greatness yet seemingly a hair away from utterly breaking down and Farrell even lets Ron become, shockingly, a bit less selfish by the end. Koechner’s Champ is pathetically crazy and hair–triggered and Rudd provides some of the best one–liner reactions to his buddies. Carell’s Brick is a creation of comedic madness and Carell is always funnier playing a guy completely off his rocker. He gets a romantic subplot with a similarly addle brained female played by Kristen Wigg and while their romance is cute it could have been trimmed down by a scene or two since the movie already runs at 2 hours. Applegate is slightly sidelined which is a bit disappointing since she was the main person Ron butted heads with in the original. All of the other new additions and returning vets get a solid moment here and there. Lawson basically plays a really loud Rupert Murdoch parody and Marsden is funnier than expected. Even Ford’s short role manages to wring some laughs since he’s so damned mean.
While the movie is long, individual scenes are rather zippy and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues has many bizarre laughs throughout. It may not deliver as many iconic moments as the first but this is well made and absolutely crazy. If you like these characters and want to see them act really silly, it’s a worthy successor. V
THE LEGEND CONTINUES
Directed by Adam McKay
Starring: Will Ferrell,
Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd