Release Date: December 18th, 2013 (UK & US)
Starring: Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Christina Applegate
The screen flashes suddenly with the vintage-looking figure of Ron Burgundy nestled behind his giant news desk. The anchor begins reciting a number of promotional plugs for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, a diatribe that fails on the whole to pack a humorous punch. Why an advertisement for the second instalment of Anchorman is playing before a screening of the second instalment of Anchorman is a mystery on its own, however the likeness of the promo in comparison to the film itself is unfortunately similar. Burgundy and his cohorts’ reunion is only occasionally funny, certainly not funnier than its overrated predecessor, and definitely not funny enough.
After many years anchoring together on a prestigious New York news station, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and wife Veronica Cornerstone (Christina Applegate) are separated after she is promoted and he fired. This causes friction between the pair, primarily due to Ron’s massive ego, and is the catalyst for the demise of their relationship. Ron finds himself cast away from the news industry until approached to anchor at the premier 24-hour news station, GNN, in tandem with Brick (Steve Carell), Fantana (Paul Rudd) and Champ (David Koechner).
As the wise man once said, “Sooo…”
The band are back together and tonally it’s a lot more of the same, only we’ve seen and heard most of it before. Whereas the first Anchorman film is renowned for its multiple catchphrases which seem to be rehashed by fans more often than the days of the week come around, Anchorman 2 is filled with a lot of loud noises. For some reason, director Adam McKay decides to go with high-pitched squeals and abrasive shouting rather than well executed gags. Some of these are pretty funny — Steve Carell gets the best loud noises, and the best lines — but after half an hour the screeching and wailing becomes tiring and unimaginative, with each instance feeling increasingly like a cop-out. Perhaps the pressure to deliver more iconic “I’m in a glass case of emotion” moments played on the minds of Ferrell and McKay, who co-wrote the film together, and this comes across at times as the script feels like it has been written by someone putting their anxiety to paper… literally. There are a few genuinely funny moments (Carell talking about a shadow and doing the weather) but these are overshadowed by the boring stuff. I’m not a massive fan of the first film, and it’s entirely conceivable that the over-dramatic style of comedy on show in Anchorman 2 is exactly what fans of Anchorman want, but it’s simply not enough.
More frustrating than the lack of the laughs present is the seemingly absent general direction of proceedings, and more specifically, a great satirical opportunity missed. The film jumps around a lot — we go from wife and kid to making bets with other anchors to doing 24-hour news to ice-skating to lighthouses — and, even with the two-hour runtime (which is too long for this kind of comedy), events feel crammed together and rushed. Focus is placed elsewhere when it should be streamlined towards delving into Burgundy’s antics whilst working on a constantly broadcasting news station. We only fleet around the topic of how non-news becomes desired news (“It’s total crap and they can’t stop watching”) when this should make up the majority of the story. Reporting non-news is a very current problem and surrounds mainstream media today as much as it did during the inception of rolling news, therefore further exploration into the subject would have been relevant, funnier and ultimately justified. Less relenting racism, more smart satire please — saying “black” twelve times in a row isn’t all the hilarious anyway.
Although Ferrell is the star of the show by many accounts, Steve Carell outshines the lead and everybody else here much like he did the first time around. Carell is very funny inside and outside the movies, and his off-the-cuff, spontaneous comedy really works in the Anchorman setting. The character he plays, Brick Tamland, is probably the easiest to laugh at because he emits aimless stupidity often, but Carell ensures Brick doesn’t become a parody of the man we watched in the previous instalment (which sort of happens to Burgundy). Paul Rudd who, alongside Carell, is one of my favourite comedy actors, can’t overcome the dreary material his pretty naff character Brian Fantana is given, which is a shame. In regards to Ferrell, he is okay as Burgundy although his performance feels too much like Will Ferrell playing Ron Burgundy when it should appear far more natural. The scenes between him and his son come across as very dated, and lines such as “I hurt my pee-pee” are eye-rolling. That being said, Ferrell can sing to a shark every day for the next 40 years and I’ll probably laugh on each occasion.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is not horrible, but it certainly is a disappointing outing given the heaps of accompanying hype. After half an hour it was difficult to process anything other than reliving the excellence of Blackfish, and by the end it was a struggle to comprehend anything other than wondering how much money was wasted on pointless cameos. The legend may have continued, but the comedy couldn’t quite keep up.
Hey Ron, maybe it’s time to call it a Burgun-day.