Published on December 20th, 2013 | by Craig Silliphant0
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
For a movie that stars Christina Applegate and has a plot that’s more strung together and loosely hung on a framework than Clark Griswold’s Christmas lights, I love the first Anchorman movie. There are so many hilarious gags and quotable lines (“choo weel eat dat catpoop!”), that you can’t help being won over. It’s credits-to-credits laughter, which is the most important factor in a comedy (all too rarely these days do we see such treasure troves of jokes in today’s comedies). I saw so many so-so Will Farrell movies after Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy in some long distant hope of recapturing Anchorman. Likeable, but forgettable fare like Blades of Steel. The only one that came close was Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby. Yet, even when coupled with this and the fact that I have an inherent distrust of most comedy sequels, I was still excited when they announced Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. And even the insane marketing campaign that threatened to engulf the movie itself didn’t deter me from wanting to see it (the marketing really became too much, but check out these Dodge Durango commercials — some of them were really funny — I love the Ballroom Dancers ad).
Anchorman 2 reunites the main cast of the first film, Will Farrell as Ron Burgundy, Paul Rudd as Brian Fantana, David Koechner as Champ Kind, and Steve Carrell as Brick Tamland, as well as Christina Applegate as Veronica Corningstone with a few other familiar faces and new additions. The chemistry was excellent, in that this didn’t feel like a movie that was thrown together to make it rain cash (though I’m guessing it will); it felt like old friends that enjoyed working together and making us laugh getting back together for another on set hang out sesh.
This time around, Ron Burgundy is fired from his news anchor job and loses his wife Veronica, only to be recruited by a CNN-like network that is launching the first 24-hour news channel. Because the movie takes place in ’79/’80, before the rise of CNN, this leads to all kinds of jokes about how such a concept could never work. The spoof of the 24-hour news cycle is one of the strongest things about Anchorman 2, making silly satire out of problems with 24-hour news that have been addressed by shows like HBO’s The Newsroom. For example, the idea that giant corporations are manufacturing the news, turning it into car chases and kitty cat segments, breads and circuses to distract the masses. While I admire the filmmakers for incorporating these ideas, I also wonder if a lot of it will go over the collective heads of Anchorman’s core audience. I’m not suggesting that they should have pandered, by any means, it’s just (pretentious) observation on my part.
The big question though — the first thing everybody keeps asking me — ‘is it as good as the first one?’ Sadly, the answer is no. Not by a long shot. It is a funny movie at times, with some good gags (and a few more that misfire) and some hilarious lines. But it doesn’t have the rat-a-tat-tat delivery of comedy and great lines like, “you’re a smelly pirate hooker,” that populated the first movie. Gone is Burgundy being a pompous know-nothing-know-it-all, defining things like ‘diversity’ as a long wooden ship, or San Diego as ‘a whale’s vagina.’ And because, once again, they didn’t bother with more than a wire-frame story, it all becomes a lot more naked. It seems longer than it is, and even the call back at the end of the film that shoehorns in a lot of famous friends feels like an excuse to, well, shoehorn in famous friends (though parts of this scene are funny, like the ghost of Stonewall Jackson played by John C. Reilly). They build gags, but they forget the little moments that worked so well in Anchorman. (“Ron, I would be surprised if the affiliates were concerned about the lack of an old, old wooden ship…”).
Now, before you start calling for my head because I’ve slandered your God, Ron Burgundy, I am fully ready to admit that I am holding this movie up, probably unfairly, to the original, a movie that shines like a beacon from a lighthouse of comedy. I may have had unfair expectations (though, one could also argue that the marketing department created a lot of undue hype as well). And I don’t want this to sound like a negative review. It was great to see those characters back on screen, and to see the actors enjoying themselves. You’ll go see it. You’ll like it. And I’ll watch it again eventually, with diminished expectations. I just won’t watch it the 20 or 30 times I’ve watched Anchorman.