The weight of expectation was always going to be a burden for any film that dared follow in the footsteps of hit comedy Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and, as such, it is difficult to disassociate oneself from the fervour surrounding the sequel – Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Whilst the first film didn’t enjoy overwhelming success upon initial release, its subsequent popularity via other mediums has seen the film itself, and the various characters, propelled into the popular culture lexicon. Cashing in on this popularity, the follow-up has already far exceeded the box office takings of its predecessor, thereby making any review somewhat redundant. The reality is that those who loved the first film, and that seems to be a large portion of the population, are going to see the sequel regardless of what I, or anybody else, has to say on the matter.
Having said that, I will go on the record as declaring that Anchorman 2, whilst hilarious at times, lacks the comedic consistency and sheer originality of the first film, which probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. Set in the early ‘80’s, the clueless Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is sacked from his position as news co-anchor alongside wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) and, after a series of subsequent failures (which includes a gig at Sea World), finds himself in the depths of despair. Alas, soon enough a saviour arrives in the form of Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker) with an offer too good to refuse. Burgundy, with his trusty news team in tow, decamps to New York as part of the first ever 24-hour television news network.
The film works best when it is skewering contemporary news culture and genre conventions. When Burgundy’s obtuseness inadvertently leads to a revolutionary shift in what constitutes ‘news’ – live car chases, animal stories and extreme patriotism – the filmmakers are taking a none-too-subtle swipe at the declining standards in journalism and the way in which news is presented. Similarly, the absurdity of the RV crash pokes fun at the ways in which so many comedies derive their humour from illogical contrivances – in this case the inclusion of scorpions, bowling balls and a deep fryer in a scene for no other reason than to inflict maximum pain to the characters and thereby extract maximum laughs from the audience.
There are some parts of the film that just don’t work, such as the segment involving Ron’s blindness, a lighthouse and a shark named Doby; or the romantic sub-plot between Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and new character Shani Lastname (Kristen Wiig). On the other hand, Harrison Ford is a lot of fun in his small role as Mack Tannen, while the over-the-top rehash of the first film’s “battle of the news teams” is amusing for the myriad cameos and the sheer absurdity of it all. Whilst there is a lot more going on in this film than the original – such as Ron’s attempts to connect with his son Walter (Judah Nelson) and reconcile with Victoria – the plot is muddled and the shtick of Brick, Champ Kind (David Koechner) and Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) fails to generate much mirth this time around. There are still plenty of laughs to be had, most often through the sheer inappropriateness of the things that Ron says and does, utterly oblivious to the upset that it causes around him.
With the likes of Greg Kinnear, Meagan Good, James Marsden and Australia’s own Josh Lawson (as media mogul Kench Allenby) also featuring, the film is certainly overloaded with talent. However, as funny as Ferrell can be as Burgundy, he and director/co-writer Adam McKay, have failed to construct a narrative that is either cohesive or consistently funny. The best bits become bogged down by the too many moments that take us away from the arrogant ignorance of the titular ‘legend’. As a satire, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is far superior to its predecessor, but this sequel falls short of the original in every other way. Such shortcomings, of course, make this movie no different to almost every other sequel that has gone before it, but it is disappointing never the less.