By Will Ashton | firstname.lastname@example.org| @thewillofash
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues | Directed by Adam McKay | Rated PG-13
In line with films like Airplane! and The Big Lebowski, there are few films that I quote and watch more than that film. I have probably seen it more times than I should, and I continue to recite lines from it to this day.
With that said, I was extremely excited, but equally nervous, about its sequel, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. In addition to the fact that comedy sequels are rarely good, let alone equal to their original films, it has been nine years since the original film was playing in theaters. Nearly a decade has past since Ron and his co-anchors have been on the screen, but I was still eager as could be for them to return.
While Will Ferrell’s comedies have been average at best lately (I still don’t see what people saw in Step Brothers), there was something about the passion he and co-writer/director Adam McKay had about this sequel that kept me excited. This wasn’t just a quick paycheck for them; they had to fight hard to make this sequel happen, and, based on the extensive marketing that Ferrell has put himself through for this film, it’s clear that he is deeply passionate about this film and this character. So, surely this film should have some merit, right?
Well, I can safely say that, while this movie is nowhere near the absurdist comedy gem that the original was, it is still a worthy sequel.
The sequel finds Ron, Champ, Brian and Brick returning together in 1980 this time, moving to New York City and preparing themselves to join the revolutionary idea of a 24-hour news station. Despite being laughed at by their peers, Ron and his gang are determined to make their impact on nationwide news, and come up with the idea of giving the audience what they want to hear despite what they need to hear. As this idea of patriotic pride and animal stories takes off, Ron and his friends find success and the dangers that come with it along the way.
There are certainly some major differences in this film compared to the original, some of which are good and some of which are bad. Since the original film, which was his directorial debut, McKay has grown as a director, and he and his cinematographer Oliver Wood are able to move away from the sitcom-y nature of his original film to give this movie a more natural, cinematic look. His technical direction has become a lot more smooth and assured, and is successful at making the film look bigger and better than the original, especially towards the end.
Additionally, Ferrell and McKay’s script appears to have much more structure than the original film ever had. Whereas the first was more a collection of set pieces and improvisational scenes tied together with a loose plot, here the plot appears a little more guided and a little more centered. With that said, however, the film still suffers from a hodgepodge of side stories which weight the film down repeatedly. Some of them work, like Brick’s love story with Chani, a new character who is basically the female equivalent of Brick. While others, like a major plot point that happens towards the end of the second act, feel rather forced and overdone.
Additionally, the film often feels like it is trying too hard to recapture the offbeat spirit of the original film. It is not until the third act that the film truly nails this off-the-cuff, anything goes atmosphere that the first had, during a recreation of the original’s epic anchorman fight which is easily the highlight of the sequel.
Throughout the film, there is very much a hit-or-miss nature to the jokes, with some jokes landing hard, others creating a good laugh, some creating halfhearted chuckles, and quite a few not landing at all. Often, the film is at odds with not knowing when to end a bit—a problem that has come about far too often in Judd Apatow productions (he produces this time around as well). Some bits, like an awkward dinner between Ron and his new girlfriend/boss Linda Jackson’s family, go on just long enough, while many others go on a minute or two longer than they really need to. They start out pretty strong, but get old quickly, like, for example, the opening reintroduction of Brick.
But, on that note, Brick, my sweet Brick, remains, once again, the best part of this movie, and ultimately what could very well be its saving grace. While they do fall back on his character perhaps a little more than they should, Steve Carrell’s deadpan delivery of utter nonsense and non sequiturs is still painfully hilarious, at least at times. He stole the show in the original film, and he, once again, does so in this film. Even if the filmmakers may be a little too aware of it this time, at least they know how to keep a good thing going.
Is Anchorman 2 going to be revisited and remembered as much as the original? Probably not. But, unlike some other comedy sequels (I’m looking at you, Hangover Part II and III), this one is still able to keep itself mostly fresh and squeeze some more laughs from its premise. I doubt that a third film would be able to work as well, but, if anything, it’s nice to revisit these hilarious characters on the big screen once again.