D: Adam McKay / 119m
Cast: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Meagan Good, James Marsden, Josh Lawson, Kristen Wiig, Dylan Baker, Judah Nelson, Greg Kinnear, Harrison Ford
Nine years after Ron Burgundy’s first outing, the news anchor with the salon quality hair is back, still unrepentantly sexist, still with an ego the size of San Diego, and still oblivious to the chaos he causes around him. Happily married to Veronica Corningstone (Applegate) and sharing the lead anchor spot with her at the World Broadcast news station, Ron’s life is devastated when news boss Mack Tannen (Ford) promotes Veronica to lead anchor and fires Ron. Forcing Veronica to choose between him and her promotion, she chooses the job and Ron leaves her and their son Walter (Lawson). After a stint at San Diego’s Sea World, Ron is approached by Freddie Shapp (Baker) to come work for Global News Network and be part of the first ever 24-hour news channel. Ron agrees on the proviso that he can assemble his own news team. He tracks down Brian Fantana (Rudd), Champ Kind (Koechner) and Brick Tamland (Carell), and with his team around him, he sets about regaining his position at the top of the news tree.
The success of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, a slow-build process fuelled by home video and extensive word of mouth, brought with it the fans’ desire for a sequel. On its own merits, the first movie can be seen as a “happy accident”, an uneven mixture of stupidity and witlessness that was nevertheless funny at the same time. Ron was crass and boorish in a “who-let-the-moron-out?” kind of way, while his news team almost matched him low IQ for low IQ. Carell, then still climbing the comedy ladder, was endearing as the intellectually challenged Brick, Rudd was boyishly charming as Brian, and Koechner was – intentionally? by accident? – the funniest of all of them as Champ Kind, a man who has never heard a woman speak before. Ferrell created a fantastic character, a vain popinjay with delusions of adequacy, and milked the character for all he was worth. The performances made the movie, and over the years, have firmly lodged themselves in our collective comedy memories, so much so that we remember them with excessive fondness.
Sadly, that’s how they should have remained. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues trades heavily on our love of the characters but holds them in a kind of developmental stasis; in nearly ten years they haven’t changed a bit. Ron is still vain, Brian is still the scent-fixated ladies man, Champ is still the least developed of the four, and Brick is still an idiot. Veronica, having challenged Ron’s supremacy in the first movie, is demoted back to the same role again. The secondary characters are used as a foil for the news team’s shenanigans – not least Kristen Wiig’s uncomfortable turn as Brick’s love interest, Chani – and even Ron’s nemesis at GNN, Jack Lime (Marsden), is given little to make him a serious rival for the news anchor crown. And as with the first movie, Ron’s “story arc” is that he learns not to be so self-centred.
A re-tread then rather than a true sequel, Anchorman 2 arrives with a tremendous weight of expectation and reveals itself as more of a vanity project for Will and the gang (including director/co-writer McKay). There are laughs but as most of them are repeats of gags and scenes from the first movie, it’s hard to look upon them as anything but nostalgic or, worse still, lazy. Add the awkwardness of Carell’s performance – the line between exploiting Brick’s “disability” and treating him kindly is crossed time and time again – plus two sequences that inflate the running time beyond what’s necessary, and a recurring sense that the script was a first draft, and you have a movie that never quite gels in the way its makers had hoped. There’s an attempt at lampooning the public’s appetite for sensationalist news but it’s only briefly explored, and whatever criticism is implied by the need for ratings success over quality content is given short shrift also.
The movie does have a professional sheen to it, however, and the technical side of things is adequately handled but there are times when it even has the feel of a TV show. Ferrell acquits himself well, despite the limitations of his own script, and is ably supported by his cast mates. McKay directs ably enough, and the soundtrack throws up a few Eighties gems despite itself. And as for the final, cameo-studded battle of the news stations, what starts out as a glorious free-for-all, ends up as a let-down with a poor ending…and this is, ultimately, the main fault with the movie: scenes begin strongly but soon peter out. Once or twice in a two-hour movie is forgivable, but not all the way through. With this much talent involved, a better return would have been expected.
Rating: 5/10 – a huge disappointment and a perfect example of when cherished, much-loved movies should be left to stand alone; uninspired, derivative and overlong.