Anchorman 2 plays it safe in the manner of all sequels cognisant of the cult following of their predecessors.
Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell, The Campaign) is back, the same salon-styled hair defying the elements, the same inflated confidence increasing his sizeable swagger, and the same drive for delivering daily headlines burning within. His lady love, fellow anchor Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate, Hall Pass) starts by his side, just as the same rag-tag news team – charismatic investigative reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd, Prince Avalanche), overly-friendly sports specialist Champ Kind (David Koechner, Behind the Candelabra) and dim-witted weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell, The Way, Way Back) – are easily corralled into remaining his on-air wingmen; but a new decade awaits the 1970s San Diego legend, as does a new city and a new end-of-bulletin send-off (there’s nothing about this that’s staying classy).
The changes, however, are purely cosmetic, as are the challenges that set Ron on another rollercoaster journey past his ego and through the extremes of the cutthroat news game. Losing his plum New York job to his now-wife Veronica, he washes up at GNN – the first 24-hour news channel, belittled for its non-stop aims. No longer the big deal he thinks he is, Ron must prove his mettle to the network (Don Jon’s Meagan Good and Any Questions for Ben?’s Josh Lawson) and out-anchor a younger competitor (James Marsden, 2 Guns). Only a different brand of news, telling people not what they need to hear but what they want to hear, will help him retain his position.
After surprising with its success in 2004, and exceeding all expectations in its longevity and oft-quoted status, a sequel to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was swiftly mooted, the call for a continuation finally met almost a decade later. Continuation is a loose term in the Anchorman world, as relaxed as the anarchic amusement that forms its foundation; in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, writer/director Adam McKay (The Other Guys) and co-scribe/star Ferrell rehash their greatest Ron Burgundy hits, only bigger, breezier, longer, less convincing, and with evident other sources of inspiration. More than one gag from Mike Myers’ Austin Powers franchise is thrown into the mix, for example.
Anchorman 2 plays it safe in the manner of all sequels cognisant of the cult following of their predecessors, calling back to the original as often as it can in a wave of nostalgia and affection. From passing mentions of previous events, to blatant recreations of scenes from the first film, to copying known personality traits in new characters, to pop-up appearances of talent, to mirrored narrative beats, the familiar is frequently where the feature threatens to fare best – taking something proven to work, and running with it. Of course, it isn’t difficult to anticipate that the repetition will soon wear thin, especially given the laziness of much of the genuinely new material, a few clever one-liners excluded. That the channelling of high-profile cameos into one climactic – and, echoed from the initial offering – set-piece is likely to linger as the movie’s highlight is indicative of the meandering, tired surrounding material.
McKay and Ferrell do still possess satirical skills, or glimpses of them at the very least, in the film’s foray into societal commentary – albeit the same seen in several other news-themed efforts. The never-ending news cycle, the re-defining of what news means in modern times, and the incursion of entertainment into a traditionally information-based field are all addressed, complete with a slight selection of incisive gags; alas the jokes are too easy and too heavily handed. Anchorman’s focus on changing social standards is less successfully aped, the acceptance of women in the workplace clumsily replaced with the treatment of minorities. Endeavouring to add depth is an intention to be applauded; however the balance, without laughter as its end result, always favours the silly and slapstick over the insightful.
Performances offer Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues a further impressive aspect, from the ever-affable Rudd to the smartly stunted Carell, and including series newcomer Kristen Wiig (Despicable Me 2) as the latter’s love interest. Ferrell’s routine can’t last the film’s 119 minutes, but his commitment is evident – for the duration, he is the hapless, arrogant yet lovable Ron Burgundy, without question. The remainder of the feature may never offer anything more than the obvious, yet amusement, though intermittently realised, is always its objective. The most superficial and superfluous of second efforts, yes, but perhaps one of the most well-meaning, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues just can’t believe that too much Ron Burgundy, his inane antics and idiotic acts, can be enough.
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Director: Adam McKay
US, 2013, 119 mins
Release date: December 19