“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” ***1/2 (out of 5)
Starring: Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Meagan Good, James Marsden, Kristen Wiig, Greg Kinnear, and Dylan Baker
Written by: Adam McKay and Will Ferrell
Directed by: Adam McKay
This will be hard to admit, but from time to time, a film occasionally surprises me- and I’m proven wrong. My first experience with the original “Anchorman” ended up being one of those times. I didn’t see it theatrically, and waited until a friend forced it upon me. What a revelation it was- a straight-up comedy, incredibly well-made and structured, with nearly every joke hitting the mark. Sure, it’s a complete farce, but one that worked extremely well. Audiences didn’t initially warm up to the theatrical release, but like a cult film, it found an immense audience on DVD- including myself.
It comes as no surprise that there has been clamor for a sequel- the only issue is that Paramount had strong misgivings about making one. The box office wasn’t strong for the first film, and farce comedies don’t generally perform well. It’s wonderful that this did get made, however. Not only does it satisfy fans of the first film, but it contains enough fresh material and biting sarcasm to go around. It may not be as crisp as the first, and it contains a few awkward moments, but overall, it deserves kudos for continuing to take risks, and I laughed out loud multiple times.
Summarizing the plot should be rather straightforward. The blustering Ron Burgundy (Farrell) has now married the daring anchorwoman from the first film, Veronica Corningstone (Applegate), with whom he has fathered young Walter. Life is beautiful for them until Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford) decides to retire at the network and makes Veronica, not Ron, the lead nightly anchor. Ron can’t handle it, leaves the network, leaves Veronica & Walter, and ends up back in San Diego, drunk in front of Sea World crowds. Luckily for him, he meets a recruiter looking to start a 24 hour news network in New York City. The idea sounds ludicrous to Ron, but perfectly normal and sane to us.
Aside from the jokes and scenarios you can imagine after seeing the first film, the sequel offers a biting satire of today’s version of the “news”. With news networks on all the time, it’s necessary to fill that space with CONTENT. How do these networks acquire this content? Is it possible that the content isn’t always ‘newsworthy’? Is it possible the boundaries of acceptable news stories have stretched a tad over the years? Answers to all questions are a resounding yes. The fact that news and news anchors are now trusted less by the public are part of the reason that these two films exist, and that the farce is so resonant. It’s an unfortunate but true part of our society.
Thankfully, “Anchorman 2” understands the folly that is a good portion of news today. By showcasing Ron Burgundy on a screen surrounded by multiple talking heads, with headlines running across the top and bottom of the screen, we can clearly see how crowded news delivery is today. Creating a scene with Brick Tamland (Carell) going postal in front of a green screen points out the hilarity that is broadcast meteorology. After all, do we need high-tech graphics to tell us what weather is coming our way? The whole thing is silly, really, which is most likely the reason why these films work so well.
If there are downsides to having this much fun at the theater, it’s the occasional overkill. Farce is susceptible to such things, and at nearly two hours, the film occasionally runs into that. The subplot involving Ron going blind and living in exile could have been skipped. Also unnecessary are the oddly repetitive and off-putting actions of Champ Kind (Koechner), illustrating the need for a more well-rounded character (or perhaps actor? This film illustrates why Koechner hasn’t been nearly as successful as his comrades). Poor Christina Applegate doesn’t have much to do this time around except react to what Will Ferrell’s character does to her, and the attempt to give Meagan Good’s producer a meaty role falls a bit short.
For its’ minor drawbacks, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” is still the year’s funniest film. It’s also an obvious achievement, not only to get these actors together again, but to give us a film that is worthy of our attention, all while inventing a few new laughs and trying its’ hand at social commentary. If there is another sequel, I’m not sure there is anything left to comment on. We know the ‘news’ is no longer news, and so we, the audience, have to choose what we consume. It’s a laborious task- perhaps one of the reasons why so many flock to The Onion, ‘The Daily Show’, and for all intents and purposes, ‘Anchorman’ films.