20 December 2013


Making a sequel to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was by no means a no-brainer. Despite the huge cult success that the film has found in the last nine years, that film was always the result of a punishing test process that left them with enough footage to make a whole other spin-off movie for DVD, and a main feature that was much more comedic and absurd, than story-driven.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is ostensibly just as anarchic and surreal as the first film, but the benefit of increased creative freedom from a studio who never "got it" the first time around, is a double-edged sword. Ron's arrogance and ignorance to the levels of the first film as he's fired from his cushy national news job for incompetence, while his long-suffering wife, Veronica, is promoted to the network's top job. In the advent of 24-hour news, Ron soon finds another job, and re-assembles his news team with the goal of getting to #1 in the ratings again, no matter how much he has to dumb down the news to do it.

Ron Burgundy is essentially a sketch character- the kind of recurring caricature that would have been Will Ferrell's bread-and-butter if he had introduced him on Saturday Night Live. Having only appeared in two movies so far, he hasn't been run into the ground just yet, even though the marketing team has laid a few paving stones on that road in their efforts to counter-program against The Hobbit. At the same time, anything that the characters learned at the end of the first film is entirely forgotten here, because where else would the comedy come from?

Still, you'll be happy to hear that resetting the characters to their factory settings pays off pretty well, on the whole- Anchorman 2 has hits and misses, but compared to other comedy films released in the last 12 months, its hit rate is still second only to Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. I laughed consistently throughout, but unlike the first time around, screenwriters Ferrell and Adam McKay seem to struggle in putting the story out of the way.

McKay, who also directed the film, has spoken about how they shot so much footage for the sequel, they could release a whole other cut of the film in a couple of months' time- the same story, but with 250 new jokes. That's an ingenious idea, and it'll be interesting to see if it comes through, but it is symptomatic of the filmmakers' general unwillingness to kill their darlings in the editing room. Two hours isn't too long for a movie, but for a comedy movie, it's ages. If brevity is the soul of wit, then even a script with this many jokes seems to be spread a little thin over time.

In the centre of it all, the returning players are entirely in their element as the characters we know and love. Ferrell has yet to come up with a better comic character than Ron, and even if he delivers the most misfires just by being so prominent, he more than makes up for it on average. There's a danger of overusing Steve Carell's Brick Tamland in this one, but Carell is far too inventive a performer to ever let the simple shtick become stale. By contrast to both of them, I wish there'd been more of Paul Rudd and David Koechner, but the chemistry between the four big idiots is as beautiful as ever.

Nevertheless, the more indulgent parts of the film would have lifted right out. For instance, while Meagan Good lives up to her name as Ron's new boss and love interest, her character could be lifted right out of the film and it would go down a lot smoother. We also see Ron hit rock bottom at two different points in the movie, once at the beginning and once in the second act slump. Having also already seen the same beat done beautifully in the first film, the contrast shows how the film would be leaner and sharper if it were pared down to the best gags. It's probably about as quotable as the first one, but you struggle to remember favourite lines right after watching, purely because you've sat through so much of it.

These problems, if you're interested in such things, are what I saw as the weaknesses of the film. If it seems like there's little positive to be said, that's not the case- it's because good comedy is almost review-proof, without ruining the bits that made me laugh my socks off. One of the most enjoyable parts, in watching a sequel to a film with such limited scope for character development, is in seeing how Ferrell and McKay revisit the gags that have been discussed and quoted to death by now, and turn them up to 11, where they're funny all over again. I kept expecting the running jokes to wear thin, but by the time the fucking magnificent news team battle royale arrives, the film has truly jumped up a notch, and it kept me laughing through to the credits.

Anchorman 2 is kind of a big deal, but it's also kind of a long deal. More like McKay's more recent comedies, (I'm looking at you, The Other Guys) it gets a little tangled in a convoluted story and (yeah, really) a moral message, both of which will surely have been forgotten if Anchorman 3 should come to pass. To come back to Alpha Papa, Alan Partridge is a comedy character who has been reinvigorated by the fondness that grows in his absence, and from mixing up formats each time he's resurrected. Ever the conservatives, Ron Burgundy and his team have no such ability for reinvention, but it's still a lot of fun to see them doing their thing again, bigger and more boisterously.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Anchorman 2, why not share your comments below? While it's not as long as The Hobbit, it has a couple of mythological creatures(!) that probably should have featured in a Middle Earth movie by now- discuss!

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I can't guarantee that everyone will love Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (the jokes may be too broad or dated for some) but I can say that I laughed harder at this film than most comedies I have seen recently.