Review: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
PLOT: It's the 80s, and Ron Burgundy and his news team are now in New York and making a name for themselves as part of the first 24-hour cable news network. But Ron's life is in shambles: he's split from his wife, having a hard time connecting with his son and feeling the pressure from a competing anchor. Can Ron persevere and keep it classy?
REVIEW: The only two things one need ask of a movie like ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES are, be funny, appeal to those who liked the first one. I'm confidant in saying that the Adam McKay film is certainly successful at both, if not more often the latter. McKay and star/co-writer Will Ferrell certainly know their audience, and their buffoon of a lead character has just as many bizarre rants and nonsensical catchphrases as he did the first time around. There are also plenty of surreal tangents that highjack the "plot" for their own sake, a flood of celebrity cameos that seems to have no limit, and the assurance that the people on hand are actually very smart at being very stupid. No one captains a ship of witty/sophomoric silliness quite like the McKay/Ferrell team.
But like most sequels, ANCHORMAN 2 definitely lacks a bit of freshness. Perhaps it's the very fact that the creative team has taken the "Legend Continues" subtitle to heart too much, as the film ultimately feels like it's run out of places to go the more it chugs along. It's also at least 20 minutes too long; I don't care what anyone says, a movie like ANCHORMAN 2 should not have a running time of two hours. Even if the movie stayed sharp until the very end - which it doesn't - almost no comedy can sustain that length.
Until the wheels come off, however, ANCHORMAN 2 is a lively and entertaining experience, held together by the return of the principal characters from the first: San Diego's Channel 4 News Team, which includes the still-sexist Burgundy, pervy Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), racist/bigoted/clueless Champ Kind (David Koechner) and abnormal weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell). This time the boys are in early-80s New York working for a 24 Hours news channel after Ron splits from wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). Their new boss is a black woman (Meagan Good) which of course they can hardly wrap their heads around, but Ron quickly becomes enamored with her take-charge attitude. Giving him trouble, however, is handsome anchor Jack Lime (James Marsden), whom the network has brought in to be the #1 guy.
The film is given an opportunity to shrewdly poke fun at cable news, specifically Fox News (their new home is run by a cocky Aussie), as Ron uncannily becomes a purveyor of sensationalist non-news stories like car chases and cute animals while Veronica can't make an interview with Yasser Arafat grab anyone's attention. But ANCHORMAN isn't really in the satire game; its bread and butter is in the wacky and random. Hence why there are discussions about serving fried bats to customers at a chicken restaurant, or a prolonged slow-mo car crash, or a subplot about Ron going blind and living in a lighthouse. The sequel is overstuffed with visual gags and quirky asides; some hit, some miss. Like any movie in the joke-a-minute game, ANCHORMAN 2's success is judged almost on a joke-to-joke basis. If there are four or five solid laughs in a row, things are going swimmingly. If there are a handful of duds, or unexceptional bits, sequentially, the movie feels stale. This comedy goes through bouts of both. There's no doubt that the first half is where the major laughs mainly reside (Ron reassembling his old team is a particularly terrific sequence), but once it enters the home stretch a kind of manic overload sets in. One can't help but assume McKay and Ferrell were able to do as much as they wanted to, and leave as much in. This was probably a case where no one said, "Maybe let's just save this for the outtakes."
The returning cast is doing the same schtick they were in the first one, so of course they're reliable. (Koechner is a particular favorite of mine, for whatever reason.) Carell's clueless Brick, perhaps by necessity of the actor's current leading man status, has been given a bit more to do and a subplot involving his burgeoning romance with a woman (Kristin Wiig) who is his moronic female equivalent. It's unfortunate that this stuff doesn't work, and Wiig is wasted in a role that simply requires her to mumble and wear a dopey expression. Most of their scenes together are indicative of ANCHORMAN 2's problematic tendency to let a sequence last a few beats too long, like McKay didn't want to cut any the actors' ad-libbed non-sequitors. But when the jokes aren't landing, they've got to be trimmed.
Still, I don't want to give the impression ANCHORMAN 2 doesn't have big laughs; it most certainly does. More than that, it has the same winning, harmless attitude of the first film. Like its lead character, these films say and do a lot of dumb, sometimes offensive things (and have a tendency to be long-winded), but they have good hearts and want nothing more than to please. Would I like to see more Ron Burgundy? Ah hell, I can't resist a guy who says "By the hymen of Olivia Newton-John!"