Directed by: Adam McKay
Starring: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell
Was there ever really a chance a sequel would work? The sheer scale of Anchorman’s success was perhaps a surprise for those involved; the reviews were mainly average, as were the box office receipts. Yet word-of-mouth grew of this achingly funny film that took swipes at 70s showbiz culture, and of the stars who improvised many of the film’s jokes themselves. Ron Burgundy slowly became, as he had proclaimed in the movie, “kind of a big deal”. In the years that followed, Anchorman became an eminently quotable cult classic, with an ever-growing fan base. A sequel, while unplanned, was perhaps inevitable.
With much of the cast and crew returning, The Legend Continues certainly had the power and the quality to rectify the original’s success. However, straight from the start Anchorman 2 feels substandard in comparison. Sloppy, lazy and long-winded, it’s a film that never seems able to utilize the sum of its parts, ditching comedic confidence in lieu of a few-too-many celebrity cameos and a storyline that fails to capture the sharp satirical edge that enlivened the original.
With the 70s behind them, news anchor couple Ron Burgundy & Veronica Corningstone now broadcast the news for a prestigious network in New York City. However, when Ron is fired and Veronica promoted their marriage begins to crumble, leaving Ron’s life spiraling further and further downward and Veronica looking after their young son Walter. However, when Ron is offered a job anchoring on the world’s first 24hr news channel, he returns to New York with his news team in tow to try and put his life and career back together.
It took a lot of time and energy for Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay to bring this sequel to the screen. Relentless bickering with Paramount Studios over the film’s finances meant that there was more than one occasion when it looked like the film would never see the light of day. Nonetheless, Ferrell and McKay continued to apply pressure on the studio, meaning that as well as being a highly anticipated sequel, Anchorman 2 is also a passion project.
Very little of this passion is actually apparent on the screen though. You could almost forgive the fact that the narrative is an incoherent mess, unsure of whether it wants to be a satirical farce or a dramatic comedy. For much of the time it attempts to be both and fails, the noticeable overconfidence of the writers failing to compensate for their lack of originality.
As a viewer though, the most unforgiveable aspect of Anchorman 2 is that it is just not funny. Many of the jokes and set pieces simply feel like slapdash attempts to recycle what we saw in the first film. So of course, Brian once again has a special cabinet in his office, Ron continually shouts various phrases that Ferrell seems to hope will be as catchy as his “beard of Zeus” line from the original, and the signature street fight is twice the size; encompassing a cream of comedic talent and one out-of-place rapper all standing around and doing very little.
Even worse are the film’s unfunny attempts to be sharp and edgy by including jokes the deal with racism and homophobia in the work place. Even though the entire cast valiantly tries to do their best, the film never feels anything more than hollow. Even the chemistry between the actors seems to have diminished, with some scenes merely feeling like they’ve been included to show just how determined each actor is to say the most ridiculous thing.
Of course, you could try and put all of this film’s negativity down to the fact that it simply fails to be as good as the first, but that wouldn’t seem honest somehow. No matter how you try and swing it, Anchorman 2 feels more like a retread than a sequel, as if the actors just weren’t interested enough in making the best film they possibly could… now if that turned out to be the case, it really would be a big deal.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is released on Blu-Ray and DVD today.