It took three or four viewings of 2004’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy before I fell in love with it. The movie was so idiosyncratic, so ridiculous, and so weird that I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it at first, but little by little, Ron Burgundy and the Channel 4 News Team won me over and eventually I became an Anchorman superfan. I’ve written countless articles about these movies, attended a Live Read of the first film in Los Angeles, and dressed as Ron Burgundy at a Halloween party. I’m telling you all of this because I think it’s important for you to know how much I love the first film in order for you to get an accurate gauge of my feelings toward the sequel. Our reactions to films are all going to be different, but I feel like comedies may be even more subjective than dramas because everyone’s sense of humor is so specific. We can all relate to a dramatic theme like unrequited love, but there are only so many people who will think Will Ferrell singing to a shark is funny.
If you don’t fall into that latter category, chances are Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues isn’t for you. It’s a supremely weird movie, mostly because of it feels like two clashing filmmakers are working behind the scenes. Like the first film, director Adam McKay and Will Ferrell serve as co-writers, but while the original felt like a collection of quasi-random sketches loosely tied together by the plot of Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone’s love affair, this one has a much more detailed and defined plot – and there’s actually some interesting commentary in there, too. The film’s disconnect comes when the main storyline collides with some of the most utterly insane non-sequiturs I’ve ever seen, including a lengthy sequence in which Ron lives in a lighthouse, and a cameo-heavy battle scene that’s the most straight up ridiculous thing I saw in a movie in 2013.
I love spending time with Ron, Brick, Brian, and Champ, but a lot of the novelty of their dynamic seems to have worn off. Anchorman 2 is funny (and, as with most McKay comedies, I suspect it’ll get funnier as time goes on), but I don’t foresee this becoming as beloved as the first film. The first film felt as if the characters live in a somewhat realistic world, but this time they’re completely off the map. I’ll spare you an in depth plot summary, but the commentary I mentioned before comes when Burgundy and his team are hired at the nation’s first 24 hour news network. The old Channel 4 news team is stuck with the graveyard shift, and when Ron tangles with prime time news anchor Jack Lime (James Marsden) and insists that his squad can get better ratings than Lime’s even in the early morning hours, McKay and Ferrell make Ron responsible for bringing the worst aspects of today’s news culture to the forefront in order to get a competitive edge.
Ron tells people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear, and in doing so ushers in a new era of broadcasting; covering car chases, smoking crack cocaine on the air, and giving screen time to cute animals becomes the norm, and the filmmakers’ disdain for the way news is currently covered in this country is on full display. There’s even a Richard Branson-type airline owner who also owns the news network, and the conflicting interests and “synergy” of the two companies becomes the catalyst for much of the film’s final act. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise, since McKay has inserted has statements like this before; most notably, the final hour of 2010’s The Other Guys sacrifices a lot of its humor in favor of critiquing the major players in our country’s financial crisis.
Whether or not you’re willing to go as far as McKay and Ferrell take things is totally dependent on your sense of humor, but even for an Anchorman superfan, there are a lot of jokes that fall totally flat here. There’s a kitchen sink feeling to the whole thing, and the filmmakers’ reliance on repeating jokes that worked well the first time doesn’t often end well. That being said, the way McKay made this film feels like he and Ferrell are absolutely going for broke. There’s an admirable quality to that, but it doesn’t always translate into great comedy. The same can be said for the film as a whole, but with its outrageous characters (and excellent soundtrack), Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is pretty good for a sequel – especially one released almost a decade after the original. Until next time…
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