Starring: Will Ferrell (Megamind), Christina Applegate (Hall Pass), Paul Rudd (This is 40), Steve Carell (The 40 Year Old Virgin), David Koechner (Get Smart), Meagan Good (Brick), Dylan Baker (Spider-Man 2), James Marsden (Enchanted)
Director: Adam McKay (The Other Guys)
Writers: Will Ferrell & Adam McKay
Runtime: 1 hour 59 minutes
Release Date: 18 December (US, UK)
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was an instant cult classic when it was released nearly ten years ago, instantly spawning many quotes that have become internet memes and printed on T-shirts across the land (heck, I’m wearing one of those shirts right now!). Whilst I initially found it a little too goofy and meandering to find it as incredible as everyone else said, it certainly did grow on me with repeat viewings. And now, after much demand, the sequel has arrived. Comedy sequels are always the hardest to pull off; the sequels to The Hangover have proved how badly they can fail. So does Anchorman 2 stay classy, or has it taken a detour to Whore Island?
The structure of Will Ferrell comedies is so predictable at this point that you can basically just switch around a few details and the rest writes itself or, more likely, just gets made up on set. Anchorman 2 certainly does not stray too far from this blueprint. It’s your basic rags-to-riches story, but with even more rags and riches. It’s predictable, it’s cheesy, it’s full of plot conveniences and deus ex machinas, but I think that’s kind of the point. I think Ferrell and McKay know how ridiculous this all is, and the rudimentary nature of the plot only adds to strange comedic vibe. But for a film that is pretty simple-minded, it does surprisingly have some decent social commentary regarding the state of TV news. 24 hour news networks, stories being pulled due to ulterior agendas, moronic reports on superfluous subjects to distract from real problems: these are all subjects that are lampooned by the film and effectively so. Again, it clearly shows the makers of the film are smarter than you’d think. But c’mon? We all know why we’re really here: we want to laugh, and Anchorman 2 certainly delivers there. Sure, I don’t think the film is as quotable as the first film but it is just as bizarre. There are plenty of call-back moments to the first film to mixed affect; some feel a little forced, but others are just brilliant or even more so; the new Battle Royale between the different news stations is just packed full of ridiculousness and celebrity cameos, and is the real highlight of the film. Some of the new stuff is great too, such as Brick’s (Carell) burgeoning relationship with a similarly befuddled Kristen Wiig. But unfortunately, the film doesn’t always hit home runs. Certain gags are played out for too long, others just aren’t very funny to begin with, and the film really takes a nose dive around the end of the second act and doesn’t recover until that aforementioned battle scene. At just under two hours, there’s a fair amount of dead meat that could have been cut and it really would have made the film much less stagnant at points. But the good certainly outweighs the bad and the film is much better than you’d expect from a comedy sequel.
Ron Burgundy is Ferrell’s most iconic role, and he slips back into that suit and well-groomed moustache as if he never left. Him and the rest of the cast are clearly having a ball going OTT, and Ferrell’s enthusiasm and charm keep a hold of you. The rest of the news team don’t get quite as much to do. Carell’s Brick gets his own aforementioned subplot and he steals almost every scene he is in, but Rudd and Koechner are mainly pushed to the sideline without that much to do in the grand scheme of things. Applegate is similarly pushed aside for much of the running time, but does make a welcome return towards the end and still packs in just enough gags. The new cast members provide some fun too; Meagan Good is sassily entertaining, Dylan Baker is nearly unrecognisable, and James Marsden plays a good jackass. But there were two main weaknesses in the cast. Firstly, Josh Lawson’s “villain” is weak. Whilst touching on the ulterior motives of the news is interesting, it never gets much focus and is wrapped up so quickly, therefore making Lawson’s character seem somewhat pointless. And then there’s Judah Nelson as Burgundy’s son Walter. I just didn’t get what was up with this kid’s line delivery; it felt robotic and odd, and I couldn’t figure out if that was supposed to be that way. Intentional or not, I just didn’t like this kid or his performance.
Do I really have to talk about the technical aspects of the film? It’s a standard comedy; who really cares about cinematography or production design when it comes to this sort of stuff? All I really have to say is that the 80’s soundtrack is pretty sweet and the van crash scene has some pretty impressive effects. That’s not to say anything bad of the film; it’s just clearly not the main crux of the production.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues does exactly what the title says: it’s more of what you loved about the first movie. It’s just as random and inconsistent as the first film, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I laughed consistently throughout. Fans of the original should be pleased, and those who didn’t like the first one won’t find anything better here. I’d say it’s about as good as the first one, and one of the few comedy sequels that is worth watching. Anchorman 2: it works 60% of the time, but not every time.
FINAL VERDICT: 8/10