‘Anchorman 2′ is a Flawed by Funny Sequel (4/5 stars)
Much like the feeling you get with your high school friends at the ten-year reunion, the feelings you have for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues will largely be shaped by your feelings of nostalgia and a desire to relive those happy times of yesteryear. The sequel to the 2004 original returns many of the same characters and set-pieces and blends those things with a few new elements to create a good but not great time at the movies.
The film opens in New York City where Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are co-anchoring the weekend news. They are called into the office of veteran anchor Mack Harken (Harrison Ford) who decides to retire and pass the torch to Corningston and to fire Burgundy. Burgundy, selfishly, wants Corningstone to leave the job with him but she ultimately chooses her career over her husband and the father of her six year-old son, Walter Burgundy.
Flash forward and Burgundy has fallen on hard times in San Diego. But a fledgling cable network Global Network News is looking for anchors for it’s brand-new 24 hour format. Burgundy accepts and reforms his news team including Champ Kind (David Koechner), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell). The “get the gang back together” is a necessary evil for this format and for the most part moves along quickly with some good jokes.
Once in New York, the news team finds out they have a new pushy, female boss named Linda Jackson (Meagan Good) who tells them she wants to be number one in the ratings. They also find out they have a rival and younger anchor named Jack Lime (James Marsden) who has the prime-time slot whereas Burgundy and crew have the graveyard shift. This forces Burgundy and company to do whatever it takes for ratings and accidentally/on-purpose they discover a new format where they give the audience what they want instead of what they need. This satire of modern media is surely the work of writer-director Adam McKay who worked similar editorializing into his previous film The Other Guys. But, let’s face facts, the satirical material in Anchorman 2 isn’t particularly sophisticated and you see it all coming a mile away.
If all of this plotting sounds a bit belabored we’re just getting started. There are additional plot elements including a love story for Tamland and a coworker named Chani (Kristen Wiig), some scenes of Burgundy not being a good father, Corningstone taking a new lover, and another office romance. There’s a story here, and unfortunately there’s too much of it since it gets in the way of letting the funny happen. The storyline with Carell and Wiig is very thin and particularly disappointing since the role of Chani doesn’t seem to have a specific purpose. Some of the winky jokes about white Broncos or Phil Spector fall flat and feel lazy. There are also a lot of characters to try and follow, so much so that you wonder why Rudd is even in the movie given how little he has to do with anything other than to stand next to Ferrell. It’s too bad the filmmakers didn’t learn the lesson of the first film where the film’s major subplot was jettisoned in favor of a much smaller plot device.
Worse, nearly all the original film’s key moments are replicated here. There’s a bit with Fantana’s collection of dating devices, lots of homoerotic jokes from Kind, a scene with a jazz flute, and Burgundy’s dog Baxter talking to animals. Meanwhile, the best scenes in Anchorman 2 are original concepts including a hilarious sex scene with Burgundy and a subplot involving a pet shark and Burgundy breaking out into song. It’s too bad these original elements weren’t more prevalent. A filmed musical sequence was cut due to time but will resurface on home video and/or alternative cut of the film, according to McKay. Thankfully, the period music is just as outstanding as in the first film and the film wisely and surprisingly doesn’t touch on Disco at all.
All of which isn’t to say that you won’t laugh. Anchorman 2 is definitely a very funny movie, even if the mechanics of the jokes aren’t particularly original. If you love non-sequitors, the sequel doubles them over the original! And while it’s a plot retread, there’s a very funny and cameo-heavy battle amongst a variety of news teams at the conclusion of the film. Without spoiling things, that battle has some great material and you’ll love the cameos.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is worth seeing, though after years of anticipation and months of media hype one wonders why this was the movie McKay and Ferrell fought so long and hard to make. Maybe the studio demanded more Dorothy Mantooth jokes, I don’t know. Still, what counts most is the laughs and there are plenty of them here. So, it’s with begrudging recommendation that we rate the film 4/5 stars.