ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES might not have the joke hit-rate of Ron Burgundy’s debut, but when the gags do hit, they hit hard. Aside from an apocalyptically over-the-top sequence towards the end, nothing in the film is particularly revolutionary, but you’re still guaranteed a good time, more so if you love Will Ferrell and especially Steve Carell.
Set six years after the events of ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY, and the titular moustachioed moron of a newscaster (Will Ferrell) finds himself in the 80s. After losing his job to his more talented and professional wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), Ron hits a downward spiral, until he is recruited for the first-ever 24-hour news channel. After touching base with his faithful news team (Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and David Koechner), Ron strides forth into a new era of American news broadcasting…
Much like the first film (and the comedy partnership between Will Ferrell and Adam McKay in general), the more surreal the gag, the better. The slapstick and cringe-inducingly inappropriate comments from Burgundy’s News Team are funny, but they’re not a patch on Koechner’s Champ Kind serving up fried bat at his newly-acquired chicken restaurant, or Ron Burgundy bottle-feeding a shark.
Speaking of surreal, Steve Carell is the king of playing it a bit weird and keeping an astoundingly straight face. The slow weatherman Brick Tamland is still the highlight of the Anchorman-verse, and Carell completely outshines his co-stars. Brick is a brilliant creation – hilariously odd, but always endearing, and, it transpires, possibly not from our time at all (just watch the movie). He is also given a love interest this time round in Kristen Wiig’s slow receptionist Chani. Their scenes together are beautifully awkward (for everyone but them) and I only wish more of the story was dedicated to their unconventional relationship.
I wasn’t really sold by the continuation of the Burgundy/Corningstone relationship, and the film starts a little slowly precisely because we’ve got to check in on where their lives are (and aren’t) going. In fact I found Burgundy himself beginning to grate after a second film; he’s just so one-note. It’s a bit of an issue when you don’t really want to spend any more time with a film’s lead character, but luckily the supporting players make up for it, and luckily Burgundy is just too stupid to ever be really offensive (as his spell following an accident in the film with attest to).
There’s also an element of satire this time round which works…sometimes. The film seems committed to taking down Fox News…sometimes. There’s an evil head of a media conglomerate (played by Josh Lawson) who looks like Richard Branson and talks like Rupert Murdoch, and he’s definitely pulling the strings…sometimes. It does seem like McKay and Ferrell at one point debated making the film a satire of “big news” and there are some funny gags about overloading the news screen with graphics and giving the American public what they “want to hear”, but any attempt at being cutting and relevant gives way to Anchorman-brand silliness sooner rather than later.
Like the first film, there is a plot, and that takes up about half of the runtime. The rest is just setting up the camera and letting the talented cast of comedians do their thing. It’s not necessarily a criticism of the film, it’s what I’ve come to expect from Adam McKay’s brand of comedy – it was the same in TALLADEGA NIGHTS, it was the same in THE OTHER GUYS. McKay has freely admitted there’s enough footage left over to re-edit the entire film with alternative gags, so I look forward to seeing what other bonkers directions Farrell and co took the comedy at some point in the future!
Anchorman 2 isn’t as instantly quotable as its predecessor, and its not focussed enough to be satirical, but it’s arguably funnier overall thanks to massive comic set pieces, more frequent surreal asides, and the delirious amount of fun all involved are clearly having in making it. If you didn’t like the first Anchorman, then you won’t like this one either, But if you’re a long-time fan of Burgundy and his News Team, you’re in for a treat, and if you thought the news anchor battle in the first film was ridiculous, you ain’t seen nothing yet. SSP