Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

January 5, 2014 by  

The period between 2001 and 2004 produced some of my favorite comedies of the modern era. There was a real stale period sometime after “American Pie” that made me think we had perhaps seen the end of the Great American Comedy Movie. Everything was either trying to copy the aforementioned “Pie” or “There’s Something About Mary”. Even the Farrelly Brothers seemed to be running out of steam coming into the 21st century. But then came a few comedies that gave me hope: “Zoolander” and “Old School”. These two films captured genuine humor that had been missing in the past few years, where the comedy seemed forced. Ben Stiller reached back into his sketch comedy roots to produce a full length feature film based on his popular character from MTV Video Awards sketches. The result was one of the funniest films I saw in years. I still love watching “Zoolander”. In 2003, there was “Old School”. Putting together a very strong cast of comic actors coupled with an entertaining story line made this a great addition to the Campus Comedy subgenre. Then, in 2004, we were treated to “Team America”, “The 40 Year Old Virgin”, and…

“Anchorman”. At the time, it wasn’t a huge hit and it received mixed reviews from critics. But my friends and I all loved it, loved quoting it, and it still remains a favorite of mine. I think it’s classic in the way “Caddyshack” and “Stripes” are of their respective times. This spawned what I call the Judd Apatow Era of comedies. Mixing raunchy humor with oddball characters that are strangely appealing and endearing, films like “Knocked Up” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” created a new avenue for adult comedies in the new millennium.

Through the years, the act has grown stale to be sure. It gets tiresome to see the same actors regurgitated in familiar plots, bloated run times, and release after release of the Unrated Versions of DVD’s.

Then a few years ago, there was talk of a sequel to “Anchorman”. I thought, “Oh no. It IS ‘Caddyshack’ all over again.” I didn’t like the idea at all, especially because “Anchorman” aged well on its own and could be considered a classic in its own right, without having an unnecessary sequel attached to it.

Last year, it was pretty official and we started seeing teaser trailers. By this time, I had put behind my reservations and tried to approach the sequel with an open mind. They were reuniting the entire cast, which back in 2004 was relatively unknown, and it would simply continue the story of Ron Burgundy into the 80’s, which I thought could be a great period to utilize since the 80’s are so popular now.

Well, after seeing the film, I can’t say that I am angry they made a sequel. But, I can’t quite recommend the film, either. “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” begins with Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) almost being eaten by a shark. Promising.

Then, we’re taken back to when Burgundy is co-hosting a weekend wrap up show with his wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), who now have a child, Walter (delightfully overplayed by Judah Nelson). They are approached by the network’s leading news anchor, Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford), who fires Ron but promotes Veronica to the nightly news anchor while he retires.

Ron doesn’t approve and it tears up their marriage, and also leaves Ron jobless (he’s also fired from Sea World). He’s then given an opportunity by someone working for an upcoming 24 hour news channel (Dylan Baker) who wants Ron to do the news again. At first Ron balks at the idea, but then after being allowed to include the rest of his news team, he accepts the opportunity and rounds up the gang.

This is where the film hits a fork in the road for me, and this is where it starts to head in the wrong direction. Instead of a story about Ron finding his friends again and creating a rivalry with his wife, there are simply endless scenes of banter that leave the film more quotable than memorable. There is a banal subplot between Ron and the leading producer, Linda (Meagan Good) that doesn’t lead to any real drama between them and Veronica. There’s an amusing but underused storyline of a rivalry between Ron and the new network’s lead anchor, Jack Lime (James Marsden, a real sport in this film). But where the film grinds to an unforgivable halt is the extremely sorry excuse for a comic love story between Brick Tamland (Steve Carrell) and a bumbling receptionist played by Kristen Wiig. I like both of these actors immensely and think they are talented, funny, and very smart. But their scenes are just nails on the chalkboard. They are obviously not scripted, and instead rely on that old standby in the Apatow Era–improv. But the improvised lines sound more forced than funny. Maybe if these were outtakes of the film, they’d be appealing. But as part of the narrative, these scenes just clang. And we don’t care about these characters, we were never meant to.

Burgundy’s character seems a bit out of tune at times, as well. He can be cocky, and stupid, like he was in the first film. But then it’s almost like Will Ferrell’s doing an impression of Ron Burgundy instead of being Ron Burgundy. There are times where his typically sharp wit is dulled and comes off as unrehearsed and sloppy. It also seems like at times he’s searching so hard for that really funny line to rival “a whale’s vagina” and instead just blurts something inane and dumb. Ferrell seems to have given all of his best lines to Dodge for the Durango commercials, which is a shame for this sequel.

There are laughs in the film, and I think the best line comes from Champ Kind (reprised nicely by David Koechner) when he’s discovered by Ron to be running his own fried chicken joint that actually sells bat wings and meat instead of chicken. When he’s asked about why, he says it’s cheaper. And besides, he says, bats are known as “chicken of the cave”.

The 24 news network, GNN, could have also served as a real juicy satire on oversaturated news. It’s even run by a greedy, over the top Australian (played by Josh Lawson). This had potential, and includes some jokes about how desperate the news can be for storylines; but it isn’t explored enough. Instead, we’re given a purposely off the wall and goofy subplot involving Ron becoming blind and raising a shark named Doby. I found that funny, especially since Ron goes way overboard on pointing out how blind he is–to the point that he tries brushing his teeth with a lobster. But it goes on too long, and the film stretches itself into so many half-hearted, hair-brained directions that it never really finds a focus or purpose. Oh, and there is another Newsteam Melee. While you may be impressed by the cameos…it really doesn’t do much else but make you say, “Oh look! It’s (insert name)”. What made the original fight so funny was not just the fight, but the joke was more about the fact that they can be actual “gangs”. That joke didn’t need to be repeated for the sequel.

It’s overindulgent and overlong, and while it has its moments of the original’s inspired brilliance, it just seems to be content as a send up of one-liners rather than a full blooded comedy film. It’s certainly not as abominable as “Caddyshack 2”, but it does share some of its slapdash demeanor.

Ron Burgundy could still be used in another sequel, as well as his appealing co-workers and supporting cast. I think next time they should work more on the script and less time trying to show off how funny they are. We already know they are. Now put a story behind it, and make a funny movie.

My rating: :?

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